Saturday, March 1, 2014

Reflection on: A Different View of Google Sites: Using Google Sites to Create Websites with Pizzazz, Flair, and Dynamic Design

I moved my class website over to Google Sites this year after making a staff start page using Google Sites last spring. After about a year of using Google Sites, I feel comfortable with the basics and was inspired by Ken Shelton's session at the Alberta Summit to now extend that learning. He models simple design and easy to access information on his own Google Site about Site Design(ed). A useful resource!

His session (A Different View of Google Sites: Using Google Sites to Create Websites with Pizzazz, Flair, and Dynamic Design) explained simple ways to personalize a Google Site so that your website does not look like all the other websites that use the set templates provided by Google. 

Key Tips

There were a few tips that stood out for me:
1. Two Clicks
2. Colour
3. Font
4. Simple


New Website

Prior to the session, I had just begun migrating a website of teacher resources that I maintain over to Sites from Wordpress. It seemed like perfect timing to practice what I learned with something I will actually use on something that is not yet "live". I plan to then implement the changes on my class website as well. 


Tip One: Two Clicks

A user should be able to get to any content on your page in two clicks or less.  The best way to accomplish this is to use drop down menus. 

He also encouraged site designers to decrease the amount of scrolling needed to reach content. By using two column or three column layouts, you can minimize users getting frustrated with finding the content they are seeking. 


Check out Ken's page on navigation and look for more tips and resources. 


Tip Two: Colour

He pointed out that colour can say a lot about you. He gave some great resources for planning and creating a colour scheme for a Google Site so that you are not using one of the set templates. He also reminded us that in general, a darker background with lighter font is easier to read for web-based text and a lighter background with darker font is easier to read for paper based text. 


Colour Resources:
  • PikNik Color Picker - a simple website that you can use to select a colour you like and then get the hex value of the hue you selected. 
  • Color Scheme Designer - a site that helps you create a colour scheme or palate to use in
    your site design. Lots of cool features, including an option to preview how your choices would look if you used a light or dark background. 
  • ColourLovers - a site that allows you to create colours, palettes and patterns. Sign up is free. You can use the palettes and/or patterns you devise to create a banner/header image for your site. If you find a colour that no one else has used on the site before, you get to name
    it! Fun. Warning, the site can be addictive. 
  • Check out Ken's page on colour  for more tips and resources. 

Tip Three: Font

Font can say a lot about you as well. One theme at the Alberta Summit was the use of Comic Sans. As one presenter said: Friends don't let friends use Comic Sans. When choosing a font, it is useful to consider truetype fonts, such as Helvetica (as used in this post), as these fonts will look same no matter the device the website is being viewed on.

Check out Ken's resources page for more tips and resources on typeface. 



 Tip Four: Simple

Keep the overall layout and colour choices simple. 

Check out Ken's page on navigation and look for more tips and resources. Check out the home page on his site for an example of simple!



Division One Classroom Applications?

Unless you are doing ePortfolios, I do not currently see the value of teaching K-3 students Google Sites. Those schools/teachers doing ePortfolios may want to introduce one or two aspects of individualizing the layout of an ePortfolio in grade three. However, as things with Google Apps for Education evolve, you never know...

For a long time I have recommended having a classroom website. I think the tips Ken gave will help make my class website easier  for my students to use