Google Page Creator: When It’s All Just Too Hard

Tired of building quick-and-dirty sites for your family and friends just so they won’t produce their own FrontPage monstrosity? Tell them to try Google Page Creator instead.

The latest “beta” web application from the big G, Page Creator enables mere mortals to produces pages blessed by the goodness of CSS layout and (mostly) semantic markup.

Of course, Google has never been the champion of standards-compliant approaches to Web development, and Page Creator is no different. Ugly spots:

  • It generates <font> tags (whoops, there goes the old gag reflex…).
  • It uses <b> and <i> instead of semantic alternatives.
  • It illegally puts <div>s inside tags like <h1>.
  • It doesn’t put alt descriptions on images (not by default, but at all!).

On the bright side, it doesn’t use tables for layout, and it lets users create one-, two- and three-column layouts with a plethora of “skins” (CSS style sheets) within the browser with a very usable and AJAX-heavy interface.

The most frustrating thing for me as a developer who cares about standards is that all the ugly bits above seem to be a result of conscious decisions by Google, rather than simple ignorance. Google could have built their product without any of the above shortcomings just as easily, but they didn’t.

Google is actively soliciting feedback on this “beta” release of Page Creator, so if standards matter to you, let them know!

Update: The site appears to be serving 404 errors to all right now, possibly to dodge a brutal digging.

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  • http://www.tpdevelopment.com.au ricktu

    Why on earth would we want them to produce perfect code ? In my opinion the more errors in their code the better. After all we don’t want our clients going to them do we ? ;)

    Richard.

  • jesse

    Well, Google certainly could have replaced b and i tags with strong and em, but recreating the functionality they’ve included through the incorporation of font tags couldn’t easily replicated.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    Jesse:

    recreating the functionality they’ve included through the incorporation of font tags couldn’t easily replicated.

    A quick fix would be to use style attributes, as even Microsoft Word will do nowadays.

    A better solution would be to find semantic descriptions for each of their font styles (e.g. class="screentext" for sans-serif screen fonts, class="printtext" for serif fonts, etc.).

    An even better solution would be to let users configure their font selections page-wide, and do away with the nonsense of applying large, Times New Roman, red to headings one at a time.

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  • arrowhead

    As much as developers would like to see it differently, CSS-compliance is not EVERYTHING that a web page should be. 99% of the audience out there doesn’t care if it’s W3C-compliant or not. As long as they get served a page that meet their needs, it’s fine.

    Google is far from being W3C-compliant, but that’s not stopping them being any richer, or preventing any users from using their website.

  • Hex

    A good interface and good for anyone who wants to do the web. No one is loosing, let them make it, let more people use it, the web is such that serious people dont have time. so its the business as usual.

  • Etnu

    No, it does hurt, because it slows technological advancement. Every day that goes by where someone is creating pages using font tags and such is another day that we must wait before we’re able to incorporate new technologies. Every piece of tag soup is another move away from actually being able to utilize all of the xml technologies (XForms, MathML, etc.) that can actually make the web better. Every non-semantic piece of markup that’s formed is another page that results in people relying on inadequate assistive technology.

    Now, the devil’s in the details here and for something like using whatever really isn’t any better than using font tags anyway, with the one major caveat of a lack of forward compatibility with the font tags. The same’s true of some of the more “minor violations” that you see on google’s site (such as local.google.com), where you see a bunch of ampersands in urls. In practice, this doesn’t cause any real problems, but it does make writing a good xml parser difficult.

    So the real problem isn’t about whether or not something “works” right now — it’s about whether or not we’re creating stuff that’s going to hold us back.

    In google’s case, writing a new front end for search is probably something htat can be done in a few days (it’s really only two pages at the core), so it isn’t a big deal. If they need to support some standard tomorrow, they can probably do it in a heartbeat. Most of the web doesn’t have this luxury, and pages created today will likely be there for a long, long time.

    That being said, the tool itself really isn’t all that impressive. The html output isn’t just malformed, it actually causes quite a few problems. Inserting
    tags before the end of parargraphs usually results in extra whitespace; non-breaking spaces seem to get inserted randomly, too. On top of that, the interface itself is pretty god-awful.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: basic html is not difficult, even for the least technically savvy amongst us. It’s a hell of a lot easier to put tags around text than it is to mangle your way through MSword. WYSIWYG editors aren’t, and this isn’t.

    Instead of this kind of crap, why not simply have people enter basic html and provide them with some nice pre-created style sheets.

    The best “wysiwyg” I can think of is the approach taken by wiki software — just convert people’s natural typing into logical markup. === creates a heading, *whatever* creates bold text, etc. Blank lines separate paragraphs. It’s simple and effective.

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  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    Nicely put Etnu.

    Some of those people saying “Yeah but it works” are the ones that complain the loudest when eventually they are forced to change it.

  • http://www.iuxd.com mikeward

    My beef, if I may, is that this propagates the ‘anyone can design a webpage’ issue which doesn’t help those that do have talent and can actually contribute something worthy. I’m not saying my contributions are worthy, but I don’t need the big G to create a website.

    I’ll stop whining now.

  • Dr Livingston

    :agree:

    it’s usually down to us who actually go that extra mile and make the effort in the first place, who are left at the end of the day, to clean up after them.

    people with the attitude of ‘yeah but it works’ have no place in web development either today or in the future – they lack the proper insight for web development and the complexities of web development that arise from it.

    basically, they are plain incompetent really :(

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  • http://jrickards.ca jrickards

    Couldn’t Google just take over NVu development? NVu is not perfect but it’s a pretty good start.

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  • phil

    Personally I try to have as little to do with Google as possible given that they assist censorship for commercial reasons. Do Good? My ass.

  • http://www.easylogics.com Pedro Monteiro

    Goole Maps, Google Mail, Google Video, Google Adds, Google Payments…

    I want my Google Wife dammit!! Would make life so much…simpler.

  • http://www.vitaleffect.com/ rotren

    This service might be good for kids?

    The first thing I miss is an automatic page linking feature, so that you don’t have to update your navigation bar every time a new page is created.

  • Anonymous

    people with the attitude of ‘yeah but it works’ have no place in web development either today or in the future—they lack the proper insight for web development and the complexities of web development that arise from it.

    It seems that somebody this elitest has already lost sight of the purpose of web development.

  • lmao

    …google wife