Intranet for residents

I promised to build an intranet site for the residents of our apartment building. The main requirement was that it had to be cheap, or better yet free. I considered two main alternatives – WordPress and Google Sites. Here’s why I chose Google Sites, and a brief summary of its pros and cons.

Page templates

Google Sites has a limited set of templates, most of which are pretty ugly. It does allow you to customize some aspects of the templates, but you can’t for instance change the font size of the page navigation. The default size is uncomfortably small for modern high-resolution displays.

WordPress offers a wide range of customizable templates, and even ones that are responsive. You also have the option to edit the CSS yourself.

Permissions

In Google sites you have three user levels:

  • Is owner (super user, can do everything)
  • Can edit (Has access to edit and create page level content)
  • Can view (Can only read content)

You can set these on the site level and then add page level permissions. In our case for instance, the members of the board have access to edit all the content and residents can read all the pages, but only edit certain parts.

In WordPress you usually have five user levels:

  • Administrator (super user, can do everything)
  • Editor (Can publish content)
  • Author (Can can only publish and manage his own content)
  • Contributor (Can write posts, but can’t publish them)
  • Subscriber (Can only read content)

If you decide to host  your own WordPress site, you can go even further in defining user roles and permissions by installing a separate plugin for this purpose.

Usability

This is the thing that tipped the scale in Google Sites’ favor. Adding new posts in WordPress is unfortunately more complex than in Google Sites. The whole admin view of WordPress is much more complex, filled with different views for posts and pages etc. In Google Sites adding content can be simply done in the same view where the users view the content. Given the varying levels of computer skills of our users, ease-of-use was the decisive factor.

 





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