First look: Google Page Creator

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Late last night, I received the e-mail from Google. No message, just a headline: "Google Page Creator: sign up!!" It's still in an invitation-only beta, but here's what I found:

  • The interface is very straightforward, although a little more complicated than your average Google page. The work area (what will ultimately be your web page) takes up most of the screen, with dotted lines outlining the various areas of the page: title, subtitle, main body, sidebar (if applicable) and footer. Buttons down the left side allow formatting, linking and adding images. For the brave, the lower left-hand corner has an "Edit HTML" button.
  • You can click to choose from one of nearly 50 templates, or change to a one-, two- or three-column layout. Your changes – at least for a simple, one-page site – appear very quickly, although not instantly.
  • How do you create a new page? Just select some text, click the "Link" button and – when the dialog box pops up – enter the title of your new page. From now on, when you click on that link, you'll have the option of editing the link, editing the new page or testing the link.
  • You don't just have to link to a new page. You can upload a file, link to a page elsewhere on the web or link to an e-mail address. This is cute: if you're creating a link on the web, some very basic help text appears discreetly  under the field for the URL, explaining how to find a web address.
  • If you're creating, say, a sidebar, it would be helpful if the link manager would remember what kind of link you last created and offer that to you the next time you create a link. Instead, it constantly defaults to your local web pages. If most of what you are linking to is the external web, that gets old pretty quickly.
  • One nice little touch: instead of using the cryptic "H1", "H2" or "H3" tags, the interface offers users the choice between creating a heading, subheading or minor heading.
  • Want to tell the world about your page? After you click publish, a link appears asking if you want to e-mail your friends. Click it, and a Gmail window appears, already filled in with an invitation to "check out this page I created using Google Page Creator." You just have to add your friends' e-mail addresses.

Much appears to be driven by AJAX, the desktop-application-like technology that lets you do things like saving the page without requiring a reload. AJAX is also responsible for some of the handier little things that make all the difference in ease of use, especially for beginners – for example, the box that appears above any link you click on in your workspace, letting you edit or test it.

And that's the key lesson from Page Creator: a lot of those little things, carefully tested and applied, can add up to a much more intuitive, accessible application. For those of us aiming to broaden online participation, it's a lesson worth heeding.

Bottom line: very simple, very easy. If you can use Blogger, you can use Google Page Creator.

P.S. – One small problem: Page Creator is the wrong solution for people keeping their Gmail addresses secret. The URL that Google creates for Page Creator is (your Gmail address).googlepages.com.

Comments

Nathan White says

April 6, 2006 - 11:25pm
Did you look at the source code it creates? I'm curious if it clean valid XHTML or a mess like many other tools create. I'd be really interested in a well-crafted web-based authoring tool which produced valid and meaningful markup. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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