Migrating off of Classic Google Sites
When products are deprecated, it can cause great panic and require lots of planning to properly migrate that content or use case to a new solution. Classic Google Sites is one of those products that has a timeline for deprecation.
Although December 2021 is a long way out, starting the planning process now is ideal.
Google spent a lot of time prepping for this and has a detailed roadmap for making this transition as seamless as possible. It also built a migration tool that will convert classic Sites to new Sites with a button click (and maybe some light touch to format pages and content).
While that may work for most classic Sites, I have seen some very custom Sites built with functionality that won’t make a clean cutover. This provides an opportunity to reimagine how that content is shared if new Sites is not viable.
Here are some watchpoints that can make planning for this a little less daunting. I created a template Google Form you can copy and send to your classic Site owners for their feedback on these watchpoints. Once you make a copy, be sure to check the box in the general section to collect the email address of the person filling out the form.
Now, let’s look at what features and functions will be included in new Sites:
If you have classic Sites with deep design that are on-brand and fairly custom, you will need to make some concessions on new Sites (at least for the short to mid-term). If it’s necessary to retain that aesthetic, you may want to explore an alternative solution to Google Sites.
New Sites gives you simple header options that can include an image, and the body of the page can have a single hex code background color for a section. Themes allow you to choose a custom color to match your brand and provide three font styles within the six default themes. The theme gallery and styling will likely expand in time but these are the current design options available.
Another big feature not available in new Sites are page templates that keep design work simple for content contributors and maintain brand consistency within a site. This is another roadmap feature that will likely make it to new Sites at some point.
News or Announcements
In classic Sites, the Announcement page type and the ability to embed an Announcements widget in a page was such a great feature when it first launched. It gave authors a simple way to draft and post information AND allow commenting from others on that post. This made Sites dynamic, but it does not exist yet in new Sites.
If this is a must have, I recommend a product called LumApps that does content authoring like a boss. You can set up publication workflows and expiration dates and also include metadata that makes searching a database of news user-friendly.
This amazing feature in classic Sites enabled very complex use cases. In new Sites, think of permissioning more like it is in a Google Doc. Each site is like a Doc and can be woven together to create a page-level permission-like experience. A likely problem might be user experience, because links will be visible, clickable and occasionally will throw a permissioning error creating some frustration.
If this functionality is a requirement, I again recommend exploring an alternative CMS solution like Happeo. There are other ones out in the market, and we are happy to help you explore them. Size limitations in new Sites cannot support the number of pages that your current Sites may have grown to over the years. For now, that limitation is 1,000 pages.
You can potentially work around this limitation by breaking monolithic sites into multiple sites, but that can create some potential issues and a poor user experience.
Additionally, there will be a limitation on the number of subpages in a navigation. It’s currently set to five deep. This likely is an edge case but one worth mentioning to avoid any issues with migration work.
Looking Toward the New Sites
These innovative features in new Sites make it an excellent tool. It is mobile ready, has a slick new banner announcement feature and collapsible text boxes that I always wanted in classic Sites. It will address most classic Sites issues, and the migration effort can be passed down to the Site owners, freeing up your IT department.
Remember that these portals, intranets, team sites, document repositories, etc., hold your intellectual property and institutional knowledge and enable your workforce.
There is a reason this deprecation timeline is lengthy, so use this time to start analyzing your landscape and if you need support, reach out!