Is Google's “Sites” application the solution we're looking for?
Following up on last week's initial look into free tools for students to create and host an electronic portfolio of representational work, this week I am trying out Google Sites as a possible solution. Google Sites provides a free application for creating your own web site. Let's see how effective it is for hosting an e-portfolio.
The basic process I followed to create my Google Site
So, what did it take to create an example portfolio site with Google's tool? It starts with a Google Account, which is quick and easy to create (and provides access to a wide range of tools beyond Google Sites). Click here to access the page for creating a Google Account.
Next, choose the Google Sites option (under the “more” menu from the main Google page, or just go to sites.google.com). When you get there, click the big “Create Site” button. This takes you to a page where you name your site, choose who can see it, and select a theme. Unfortunately, you can't control the URL, beyond the suffix (your site will be located at “sites.google.com/site/the_name_you_give_it”).
As you get started with the actual design of your portfolio site, you can choose to remove the Header and the Sidebar navigation menu and just use HTML to create the navigation structure, to get a site that lays out almost entirely based upon your coding, or you can leverage the built in menuing tool to facilitate navigation. In any case, it was pretty easy to figure out how to create your own pages and relate them to each other.
I spent a little over an hour creating this simple example of an e-portfolio site. I was easily able to imbed videos, upload and display images, and provide links to external work. The result may not be very pretty, but I don't pretend to be a design expert – I am sure others more talented than I could create a more attractive site (here's an example of a more professional looking site created with the application).
One important limitation I noted with Google Sites was that Java scripting was not allowed, so it is clearly limited in terms of it's use for hosting a portfolio of web design examples. On the other hand, it is well suited towards structuring and laying out a site focused on displaying examples of a wide variety of work – pictorial, video, text, music, and more. The results are unencumbered by ads and other clutter.
Google Sites seems like a great tool for students to create electronic portfolios of their work. I need to run this solution by some faculty members and our Career Services team to see if they agree, but I am confident they will.
The main limitation that the application presented was that it doesn't look like it will work for web programmers who wish to display sites with any level of complexity (such as Java code or other more involved coding). There are many relatively inexpensive hosting sites on the Internet, where web design students can host their own URL and display web design techniques. Next week I'll take a look at various options for those types of students.
As always, comments and feedback are welcomed. Feel free to offer any thoughts, experiences, and insights you might have about this topic. Thanks!
[Ed Note – I just stumbled across this page, set up by Dr. Helen Barrett, focused specifically on using the tool for e-portfolios. Among others things, it includes a link to this video that demonstrates how to create an e-portfolio with Google Sites.]