Google has released Page Creator, an AJAX-powered web page creation and hosting service. Page Creator promises to make “creating your own web pages as easy as creating a document in a word processor”, and half as good looking (I added that part, but you’ll see).
You get 100 megabytes of space for your page and uploaded files, which probably makes it a good way to store a few podcasts.
Page Creator is actually open to all, although I always worry, so sign up fast in case Google closes the beta eventually. It requires Internet Explorer 6 or Firefox 1.0 or higher. It runs very poorly in Internet Explorer 7, at least in my usage, with many bugs.
In the FAQ, Google draws distinctions between “web sites” and “web pages”, and says that, for now, you can only create pages (as many as you’d like), but full websites are not yet possible.
The interface is Google-standard, of course, resembling Gmail. You are presented a view of your current pages, an icon to create a new one, and a place to upload files. The page creation interface shows you the page, with boxes to add content to, and options to alter the look and layout of the page.
Content editing options are: adding images, links, bold, italics, unordered lists, changing text color or font (Normal[?], Times, Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Trebuchet and Verdana), font size (small, normal, large and huge), text alignment and inserting H1, H2 and H3 text. You also can click a button to edit the HTML directly, but you can only edit HTML within the DIVs Google gives you; you cannot change the page structure in any way. And you can try inserting AdSense code, but that didn’t work for me.
The word processor analogy for page creation, as I pointed out above, is a poor one, since a good Word document is a crappy website. Websites are about flow, sending you somewhere, making navigation clear, helping you find things and then letting you process them. None of that is accomplished using a WYSIWYG editor; it needs a real design tool.
There are three options for page layout:
There are 41 options for page themes, my favorite of which turned out to be this one.
Your page URL is your Google Account name, or rather [accountname].googlepages.com/home, which is a great way to announce your Gmail account name. You have the option of choosing a “Site name” in the settings, which simply gives you global control of the title tag. Why can’t you edit it by page? No idea.
Oh, but that doesn’t matter, since the Settings page has no “Save Settings” button, at least in Firefox. That’s smart.
Google must have previously hosted the pages at Pagetastic.com, like this page, which clearly has the same template as this Google Pages template. PageTastic pages in Google’s index are dissapearing, reapearing at googlepages.com. Google accidently left a mention of it in their FAQ:
14. Why aren’t the changes I’m making in Google Page Creator being reflected on my pagetastic.com site?
Make sure to click on the “Publish” button after you make changes; until you do, the online version of your page will remain just as it was the last time you decided to publish. Occasionally, it may take up to 30 seconds after you click “Publish” for changes to be reflected on your site.
Anyway, as I’m writing this way too early in the morning, I can’t say I’m too impressed. Google has recreated Geocities, only with more storage and no popups. Meanwhile, Windows Live Office does the same thing, also for free (although with more space restrictions) with the most robust web-based site editor I’ve ever seen (yes, I’ve been playing around with that beta, too).
Google can’t compete with Microsoft in a market where Google-simple graphics and limited options aren’t what people want. The market Google should be appealing to are small businesses that need a web presence, something to point their AdWords at, and Microsoft has the better creation tools for them. Regular people will keep using blogs, since they work better, and have more options to grow.
I hope Google plans more for this, because if they look at what Microsoft is doing and make that their target, they could have something (Microsoft’s is powerful, almost too powerful). But if they plan on having the Blogger of static pages, I suspect they’ll find that space has never worked before, for anyone. They might have been better off just creating Static Blogger.
Search Engine Watch has some explanation of the philosophy:
[project manager Justin] Rosenstein says the service was the result of frustration he experienced when friends or family members wanted to create web sites but were stymied by technical challenges. He said that he assembled a team within Google to create a simple, easy to use tool as part of a “20% project,” in which Google engineers are encouraged to spend a day a week working on non-job related projects.
What’s the difference between Google Page Creator and Blogger, the free blog publishing and hosting service also owned by Google? Rosenstein says that Google Page Creator is aimed at people who are interested in publishing a simple, relatively static web site, whereas Blogger is designed for people who want to post frequently, with regularly changing content.
Dave Winer calls it “totally unremarkable“.