Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moved to Google Sites

I used to use a site called Yola to host my FreewareWire Software site, where I kept all the software I've written. But I finally switched over to Google Sites. Why? Well, I'll tell you. Yola sucks. It was probably the most displeasure I've ever had dealing with a website, and that is saying something. Here's a few reasons why:

(1) Editor sucked. To be honest, I didn't use their rich text editor that much, mostly because I wanted everything to look a certain way, and I'd rather start with HTML rather than switch to it halfway through to add something or edit formatting. And let me tell you, their HTML editor SUCKS. They try to make it good by color coding everything and whatnot, but the functionality is just terrible. For a while there, Google Chrome was my main browser, which apparently wasn't supported. So it would delete all of my code for a page literally 5 times, and I'd have to start from scratch each time. It got to the point where I backed up everything to my hard drive. But beyond that, even after I switched back to Firefox, their editor sucks. It did dumb stuff like when you type a single quotation, it will automatically type another quotation and put your cursor inbetween them (ie. "|"). Why? That's just friggin confusing.

(2) Lack of Header. After picking a default theme, it took me forever to get a header image to look good. Even then, it was just an image and clicking it didn't take you to the home page, which is only logical. Basically, I had to turn off the header on every page and substitute the logo in, and that's just dumb.

(3) Static Navigation.  This was what really took the cake for me. Yola automatically keeps track of your navigation, and it does that by putting whatever sites you want in an column to the left of your content. That's great, except I don't want just a list of pages. I want it divided into subsections, like for software, or "contact me", and such. So if you don't go with Yola's built in Navigation feature, you have to put in an HTML strip of links. Doesn't sound so bad, except that HTML strip is different on every single page on your site. So when I wanted to change one little thing, I had to go through 13 different pages, editing the HTML for every one. Plus, add on top of that the fact that since it's HTML, there's no way (to my knowledge) to automatically highlight the currently selected page, so if you want to italicize/bold it, you have to edit that specific option for every page. So summarized, editing something takes literally 10 times longer than it should, and is a pain it the butt to do.

(4) Picture Dropper. This also muchly pissed me off. I host all of my screenshots for my programs on Picasa Web Albums. I type up long posts for each, weave in the images, and then Yola just doesn't show them. It's not like they're hosting them, they're just showing what's being hosted on Picasa, but no. And it's not like it's reliable (or unreliable, I guess). Sometimes it's this picture, sometimes it's that picture......it's just absurd. Unacceptable.

(5). Save/Publish. Another annoying thing about Yola is that there's a difference between "Saving" a page and "Publishing" a page. After Saving, the changes are saved, but if someone else looks at your account, they see the old version. You have to "Publish" the site in order to update the changes. Why? Because Yola wants to annoy you, and show you an ad about buying a domain every time you want to make a change.

Besides those things, I always found Yola's entire interface extremely slow and clumsy. I'm noticing that my Google Site is loading alot faster than my Yolasite. It really should load fast. All it is is about 3 paragraphs of text, a few links, and a few images.

There are a few things I'm going to kind of miss from Yola, dare I say.

-Favicon. Google lets you choose a favicon for your site, but Yola both hosts, AND lets you set the favicon for every page, which I liked.

-Columns. One of the things I immediately disliked about Google is the lack of ability to resize columns. The nice thing about Yola is that you can insert a "column divider" which splits that page into two, then you can resize those two. Then you can insert another column divider into one of those, and so on and so forth. Google lets you choose a bit from columns and sidebars and such, but it doesn't let you drag to resize, which I will miss.

-Wufoo/Javascript. One of the amazing things I learned about through Yola is called Wufoo, which is a free site that lets you have up to three forms on your site. The forms look good, are very customizable, and e-mail you when you get a new entry. I used these forms for things like "Contact me" and even the "Guestbook". Unfortunately, Google doesn't let you put Wufoo on your site. Let me rephrase that: Google doesn't let you put Javascript on your site. That's absurd. I can't even make a link open in a new window (via HTML, at least) anymore because of that. I have to link to the Wufoo site rather than having it embedded. I haven't really used Javascript for anything else, but it feels a tad like Apple not allowing Flash on the iPhone: just a big company trying to control the people.

Despite those, there are things I'm surprised by, and happy to find:
+HTML Editor is not half bad. And doesn't crash to make you lose all your work.

+Header is customizable. AND it clicks back to the home page.

+Navigation is customizable. Right now, I have it set up where I actually have two navigation panels: one for the site stuff, the other for programs. I haven't even set up any program pages yet, but I'm fairly sure it will work out to look nice. Oh, and since it isn't HTML, if I edit it once, it edits everywhere.

+Pictures stay. Haven't seen a picture drop...yet.

+Save means save. I click save, I can instantly see it update in another browser. As it should be.

+Updates. A really nice feature I didn't know about. Basically a feature that creates a feed of pages, so I can use it to say "Updated PEM to version x.x" or "Fixed bug in Skeys" or sum such. I like it.
+Files: It also gives you 100mb of space, and there's a page template specifically for hosting files. I don't like a few things about a template, but I think I might be able to work out the kinks.

+Everything is easier: With Yola, I was always having to find a manual workaround: work around the lack of header, work around the poor navigation, etc. Google just works.

I just gotta say, I'm excited. I've had "If you know a better place that does free websites without ads, please tell me...I haaaate this place" on the front of my Yola forever, and I didn't know about Google Sites until recently. (I think I got it confused with Pages, which no longer allows new users.) Leave it to Google to make exactly what I was looking for.


Psst! - If you want to check out my new Google Site, click the link here. It's still under a tad of construction, but I'm working on it.

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