We all love Google, don’t we? Oh, those loveable rapscallions and their quirky web services, powerful free software and benignly insidious and ingenious marketing infrastructure. They’ve gone from being a strangely competent search engine to a huge, multi-billion dollar software company in a matter of a decade, putting the fear of god into the likes of Microsoft with their cloud based office software. Microsoft’s attempts to retaliate with Bing, and Apple’s attempts to push out their amazing map with the much maligned Apple Maps have failed completely. But now, is Google putting the squeeze on more companies such as Adobe with their Google Web Designer?
Well, in typical Google fashion, they silently announced some months ago that they had a tool like this in the works, and then said nothing more about it until very recently, when a fully-functional and free public beta of their Google Web Designer was just unceremoniously there. This isn’t the first time Google’s done this, if you perhaps recall the emergence of their Sketchup 3D modeler a while back.
So, as far as a web designer goes, how does it hold up? Well, if you’re expecting something akin to Frontpage or Dreamweaver, that’s not their problem of choice to solve with this (though give them time). This is actually an HTML5 development tool for creating media rich ad systems and interactive pages. SaaS developers will want to keep an eye on this down the road too, as well as web-based game developers. But for now, its main target is for ads and web elements that use the same kinds of frameworks.
While it’s a visual tool by nature, focusing on point and click graphics creation, element placement and animation via a classic Flash or Muse-like timeline, it supports jumping right into coding for those who are more at home with that kind of environment.
Including features to create 3D content with CSS3, as well as an extensive library of pre-built components to create galleries, maps and even work with YouTube video and other Google API-centric technologies, this is poised to be a powerful tool.
It’s also worth noting that I rather liked their timeline setup for animation. It reminded me very much of Flash’s timeline, something I am both experienced with and at home using, and reflects the same mentality of either quick tweening for fast and dirty animation, or immersive, frame by frame control for painstaking quality if you’re willing to put the effort into that.
While a number of other editors exist that encompass most of these features (excepting maybe such direct, native interaction with Google services), they all cost a lot of money, at least for the full experience. Google being Google, they’ve made this thing free, at least for now, which really puts the squeeze on Adobe especially.
Google Web Designer has a lot of potential. It’s still a beta, and very recent on the scene, so I want to reserve my conclusions for a time when people have poked it with a number of sticks, however. Still, if it’s as intuitive as it seems, then this is another sign that Google’s not afraid to make enemies out of every established big name software studio out there. What’ll they do next? Release a game console, too? Yeah, I bet they will.