Google released a new app called, imaginatively, Google Web Designer. Being a web designer myself, I thought I'd take it for a spin and give you my thoughts.
(Before we start, I should let you know of my pre-exisiting biases. As someone forced to use Adobe's GoLive and Macromedia/Adobes's Dreamweaver in college, I hate WYSIWYG development environments. They're a crutch and a nuisance in my opinion.)
On to the show!
Google made a pretty website to promote their product. No complaints there. On the other hand, it appears that what they've actually created isn't so much of a “web design” tool as it is a “make cool animations” tool (as it turns out, it's actually more of a “make cool ads” tool, as we'll discuss later).
In fact, it looks like it might be positioning itself as a direct competitor to Tumult's Hype application for creating HTML5 animations. While I might hate WYSIWYG html generators, only sycophants want to do animation by hand, so there's that.
The only way to evaluate software is to open it an poke around, which is what I did. Hello welcome screen!
Let's start a new document. Oh, you don't use the OS file menu? Fabulous.
The create new file dialog tells me all I need to know about this application. Google wants people to make cool HTML5 ads that don't use Flash, so they release an application called Google “Web” Designer tailored specifically toward that task. That's not a bad idea, but we'll see how it works out.
Already I'm not liking where this is going, so it comes as no surprize to me when I create a blank HTML file that there is no sensible method for even establishing a basic web page. How about grabbing a random tool from the sidebar and see what it does?
As expected, I can drag out a box and add some text and change the font. What's not expected is that after clicking around a bit, I still haven't figured out how to edit that text after the fact without clicking on Code View.
The interface doesn't give you any clue what anything is for, what it does, or why you should particularly care. Clicking on things doesn't seem to activate any special secret sauce, and I honestly have no idea how I'm supposed to make a basic web layout, let alone an immensely more complicated HTML5 animation.
After monkeying with it and starting over using the 350x250 DoubleClick Studio Rich Media setting (the most ubiquitous of ad sizes), I finally managed to create some form of design using Illustrator-esque bezier curves. It's time to hit “preview” to see my masterpiece in Google Chrome:
Wanna see the code? I was going to embed the gist right here, but I'll spare you the grotesque. If you care to actually see the code, you'll have click this link:
Good luck ever working with that code again.
The real reason to never use a WYSIWYG is because the code it generates is bloated, disgusting and should never be used in production. Google Web Designer is no exception.
My verdict? Unless you're specifically designing “rich media” ads, avoid using Google Web Designer. People don't like to hear that there is no shortcut to being a good web designer. It requires a good visual vocabulary, an understanding of how markup and stylesheets work, and a good text editor. Oh, and patience.