Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Google sites: assign a public page to the url

Once upon a time our eNom managed family domain Google Apps included an html wysiwyg editor called "Page Creator". Page Creator was bare bones, but flexible. Later, after many fits and starts and delays and bugs and a presumably painful acquisition, Google retired Pages and substituted "Sites".

Pages were forcibly migrated into the Sites framework, often appearing within a new "www" "subsite". The transition scrambled some web sites. It was a good lesson in how far one can trust the Cloud.

That was months ago, and I thought I was done with the migration, but I ran into some delayed fallout today. Here's how I sorted it out.

To begin with, I wanted to point to the original Page Creator "start" page that was now a sites page. This is intended to be a public page that orients my "clients" (Emily, kids, etc) to the domain services. It replaces the awful "start" page Google provides.

I managed this in 3 steps:

  1. First I logged into the domain dashboard and via 'Advanced DNS Settings' I signed into the DNS console and reviewed the eNom domain settings. As expected the www CNAME directs to I left that alone.
  2. I then reviewed the Dashboard Sites controls. I didn't want the Sites view to own "www" so I changed the sites URL to (There ought to be a standard way to make a subsite "landing" page the default page for all sites, but I couldn't find this in Google's awkward Sites options. I did see where you can specify which subsite page should be the landing page for the subsite.)
  3. Lastly I went to the Dashboard Sites control web address mapping. That's where I found the Pages migration bug. The "location" was mapped to my old, nonexistent, Page Creator URL. I removed that. Then I mapped the name of the subsite I was interested in to (Confusingly the subsite I wanted to use is titled "www". That is a Pages to Sites migration artifact, it could have been anything.)
It takes an hour or so for Google DNS to recognize these changes, but OpenDNS picked it up in about a half hour.

Note that there's a glitch that can be very confusing. When you use "www" as the "Sites URL", you can't map it to one of your subsites (and thus to the default "landing" page for that subsite). That makes sense; but there's a bug. Even if change the "Sites URL" back to the you will still see a warning on the web address mapping page saying your can't use as the URL. This is incorrect; you can. Eventually that warning goes away.

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