It is now about 2 months ago that Google announced its new Service (currently in Beta) with the name “Google Pages” or “Google Page Creator”
It is intended to give average people and internet newbie’s the ability to create a website via a free and easy to use tool. Blogs became main stream over a year ago and proved to be so easy to use, that virtually anybody was able to start one and publish content without the need to take some internet 101 or Web Development classes.
Google Pages is geared toward the same audience. The difference between Blogs and Google Pages is, that Blogs are meant to be a “Journal” to publish recent News and Events and not permanent content such as a Family History or “About Me” pages. Google Pages tries to fulfill this need.
The high demand for the new Service forced Google to disable the creation of new Google Pages accounts only a short time after they announced it. New Accounts are only available by invitation only.
I got an invitation last week and started playing around with the new Service to find out how far it developed, what you can do with it and what not. This article is a brief review of the current features and shortcomings of the service. You can visit my Google Pages Test Pages at http://carsten.cumbrowski.googlepages.com to get an Idea how Pages created by this new Service can look like.
The Basic Layout
The first choice the user has to make is which of the 4 pre-defined Layouts and 41 pre-defined Designs he wants to use for his pages. There is no option to change a design or layout to custom needs which really limit the possibilities to create unique looking pages severely.
The Google Pages Team did obviously not study how Blogger is solving this problem in an elegant way by providing the selection of templates with the ability to tweak it afterwards by more experienced users. Blogger is also owned by Google. I recommend that the Google Pages Team meets with the Blogger Team to discuss synergies and learn from the years of experiences the Blogger Team already has with this problem.
The WYSIWYG Editor
The intuitive WYSIWYG Editor is overall very easy to use, but rather limited in options. Only 6 Fonts are available: Arial, Verdana,Times New Roman, Courier New, Georgia and Trebuchet; 4 Font Sizes: small, normal, large and huge; 70 fix Colors; H1, H2 and H3 Head Lines; Unsorted List (ul); Bold or Italic font formatting (no underline, superscript or strike through); Link to other Page, File, Email or External Link; Alignment of Content: left, right and center; Image (must be uploaded) with 4 fix size options: small, medium, large and original size.
There is the option to edit the HTML Code which you need to fall back to when it comes to creating “Tables” or using additional HTML Syntax not provided by the Editor like “hr”, sorted list, the mentioned font formatting or specific colors not available in the list of the 70 predefined ones.
What I also miss is a simple build-in spell checker. The Google Toolbar has one build-in and there are various free solutions out there as well, such as the Lingucomponent Project from Open Office (http://lingucomponent.openoffice.org).
The Page and Image Management
The Management of the individual Pages is easy. Google Pages refers to Pages by what you use in the predefined “Title” area of a page. So far so good, but there is an issue when it comes to the Page Name used for the URL. The Initial Title specified for a new Page is used for the Page “File name” and can not be changed afterwards.
The Google Pages URL Syntax is [http://username.googlepages.com/pagename]. Make sure that you give a new Page a title that reflects the wanted “File Name” and change the Title of the Page to its real Title afterwards. The Inability to rename a Page renders the “copy page” feature more or less obsolete. The copy of the original page is simply named “originalpagefilenameX” with X being a number starting with 2 for the first copy.
Accessing the uploaded Images and deleting them is simple. The user must be careful though, because there is no indicator if an Image is used in a “published” = live page or not. Deleting a used image creates a broken Image on the public site.
“Static” Content is not an option
If you would like to have the same content for certain areas on all your pages, such as a Footer or Main Navigation you have a problem which can only be solved by cumbersome manual labor.
You can not incorporate anything to your Site Template. This means that you have to recreate the static content for every page manually. If something changes, you have no choice but must update every single page of your site manually one by one.
This is a major shortcoming that practically causes users to be inconsistent with the overall look and usability of their site.
This means, that you can not add most of the common types of Advertisement to your pages to monetize the site including Google AdSense Ads, Amazon Product Ads, Linkshare DRMs or Chitika Ads.
General Tools are simply absent
Google Pages does not offer any type of tools to extend the features of the site beyond a small collection of static HTML Pages with a little bit of content.
The ability to place AdSense Ads on those Pages should be of high interest by Google since it allows them to increase their Advertising Revenue. Any build in function to place AdSense Ads somewhere into Google Pages is not in sight anywhere. I assume that this will be coming at one point because Google Pages is simply perfect for Google AdSense.
The ability to create any type of Forms or in general ANY interactive content does not exist, which severely limits the use of Google Pages. This is something the Google Pages team should work on.
Providing features like a contact form that integrates with Google GMail, the publishing of Feeds from Google Reader or the Integration of Google Maps and Google News would be perfect for Google Pages. Google Analytics can’t be added to the Pages as well.
Indexing of Google Pages by Google Search
What I haven’t found out yet, is if Google automatically adds Google Pages to the content to be crawled by its Web Crawler or not. A Search in the Google (http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Agooglepages.com) Index reveals that over 46,000 Google pages were already indexed and added to Google’s Search Index as of today. This tends me to believe that the pages are in fact automatically crawled by Google.
Google Pages is surely for a good reason still in Beta Status and will probably remain in that Status for quite a while. The existing features have a lot of flaws and also a lot of very important features are missing all together.
Google Pages does also not interface with any other existing Google Service although Google Pages is a perfect candidate to exploit and showcase a wide variety of existing Google Services (live and beta ones). Google has still a long way to go with this service to provide a useful tool for the general public.
I see its use today as a place where you can create some static pages with content to link to from your blog at Blogger or other Blogging Services. It is certainly not enough for most people to create their complete Homepage/Presence on the Internet via Google Pages.
It might also be an alternative for some Geocities Users since Google Pages does not show any 3rd Part advertisement anywhere on the pages.