Google Pages

After reading a Digg story about Google Pages coming back online, I went to sign up, but got a kind letter that they were swamped and not taking additional users at the time.

But this morning I got a nice letter from Google stating they’d finally activated my account and to give it a try.  So, I put together a simple web page.  http://walt.stoneburner.googlepages.com/

The interface provides a simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor in a web environment, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. It’s the kind of be-prepared-to-be-blown-away thing you’ve come to expect from Google.  In fact, Google’s recent blast of web innovations may have made you so desensitized that you look at this one and go “so?”

You get the standard stuff you might expect that you’d see from Google Mail: images, links, bold, italic, bulleted lists, colors, fonts, sizes, justification, with the addition of headings, subheadings, minor heading, and the ability to edit the page’s HTML (nice).

What impresses me is that Google seems to have done all this site design by using Cascading Style Sheets in a very clever and clean way.  You provide the content, and Google provides the presentation.  They’ve got a number of themes and layouts, all independent of your page’s content.

At the moment, doing a view source on a Google generated page reveals a very clean looking, and nicely indented, piece of crisp HTML.  The CSS is readable, and the content is well marked up with DIV tags.

Anyone who’s looked at Google’s other pages knows they compact and often obfuscate their web code.   Consequently the first thing I did with a basic page was save the source for later study.  If anyone can teach us about the web, it’s Google.

Creating new pages is almost like making a Wiki, you give a page title and it figures out where to store the page internally.  It’s also got a nice page management system, where you can edit changes to pages and then publish them.  This way no one catches your site in mid-progress.

In the looking-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth category, there are two potential concerns for Google Page users.

One, because Google Pages is releated to your GMail account, there’s a lot of buzz in the tech news about GMail addresses being easy to harvest.  Take my page, for instance, and it’s easy to figure out my GMail address is walt.stoneburner@gmail.com.  This actually doesn’t bother me, because Google does an amazing job at filtering spam.  Plus, I’ve grown to learn that you can’t hide your email address, because anytime you send an email, or your friends mail you a evil survey, they’ve just published your address all over creation and who knows how many times it will get forwarded because people are too lazy to strip off message headers.  (Please people, stop hitting Reply-All and start trimming out stuff that isn’t content; and while you’re at it, stop including large images in emails – it isn’t necessary.)

Two, this begs for the potential of external advertising to be added to your pages.  So far, that doesn’t seem to be happening.  I’m a big believer that any page I write should have only the content I put there.  Further more, if I happen to participate in Google’s AdSense, then I want my advertisements generating revenue for me.  Now, given that Google knows who I am and what my AdSense account is, there’s no technical reason they couldn’t do this already, assuming I wanted to do that.  But as it stands right now, the point seems entirely moot, given that I haven’t seen a lick of advertising appear in content I’ve made.  I classify this decision as supportive of Google’s “Do No Evil” stance.  Thank you, Google, for making this a non-issue.

I see Google Pages as a means that people can quickly set up simple web pages and get quick results.  It’s not a be-all end-all solution, nor was it intended to be from the looks of it.

For more serious depth, without the hassles of learning HTML, one should delve into Nvu, or, if you got the money for it, invest in DreamWeaver.

So, while I don’t know if I’ll use Google Pages myself for any serious work, it certainly is a good place to send people who just want to slap-dash a a few pages together.

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