Google Web Dev Spoon Feed (A fresher’s experience)

SYNOPSIS
When I got a buzz on my Facebook message asking for volunteers to get the Lagos GTUG’s (Google Technology User Group) website running, I felt that it would be an opportunity for me to horn my interest in Web development by watching the “masters” do their thing and get to learn new tools, but that didn’t hold true because I got an approval with a condition that I spearhead the project. What?!

Eventually, we were able to register our site, design and apply various feels using the Googleweb development environment with a basic WYSIWYG interface for creating and editing pages and, believe me, it was easier than I thought.

When you hear “Google” what comes to mind is search engine! But Google has come a long way to provide services beyond just search engines, emails and contact information  management to actually help you create and develop your own world directly on the web with unlimited, likewise, controlled access to supplied information files, ranging from video, images, books, applications and more.

Anyway, here we are with a functioning site that is not only dynamic and simple but also easy to implement and deploy all by yourself! All you need to get cracking is a Google username and password (just like you have your Yahoo login name and password) voila! You are good to go.

Basic tools: A functioning internet service, your hands and interest!

INTRODUCTION Google Web Creator is a free Google service that allows you to create a website using an online web creation wizard together with an online What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) web editor. The pages are published and hosted on Google’s web servers free of charge.

GETTING STARTED It’s fairly easy to get started. If you don’t have a Google Gmail account, you’ll have to sign up for one. With that same account name and password, you will be able to log into the Google Page Creator. You should choose your Google Gmail account name carefully, however, before you start, because whatever name you select for that Google webpage will wind up as part of your URL e.g.  Given that your sites name is deespetproject, then your sites url will be https://sites.google.com/site/deespetproject/.

 DESIGNING AND MANAGING YOUR SITE WITH GOOGLE PAGE CREATOR

SITE CONTENT PANE
Recent Site Activity: This helps to display the various activities that had been performed on certain web pages by listing the time, date and the name of the user who made the changes.

Pages: From here, you can view the various web pages that have been created.

Attachment: Fresh files like images and other documents can be uploadviewdownload,rename, replace and remove from here.

Templates: This page handles the standard templates of the site and you can includedisable,enable and remove any of your templates from here.

SITE SETTING
General Setting: From the site setting page, changes can be made to site name (title of the site), site description and matured content display option, landing page, statistic (analytics), site display languages and other actions.

Sharing: From this page, you can release access to your site by defining roles. I.e. you can specify people you would like to have access to the site and also place restrictions on them. Note that contacts can be selected from your Google account directly from this page.
Monetise Pane: This provides Adsense (AdSense ads) tool that you can place on your site for monetary gain. How? It enables you to earn money by placing targeted text and image ads on your site.

Google automatically chooses which ads to show based on your sites’ content and users and you earn money when visitors view or click on these. It is advisable not to enable this tool until you are sure of what you would like to achieve with it because “all that glitters…”

Web Address: This page displays your current web address and new web address can also be included to the site from here.

SITE APPEARANCE
Web Templates and Web Layouts: It is fairly easy to get started on a website with Google’s web design offering. You can select a design from a variety of web templates and standard layouts and make changes to the size of the columns for proper definition on the page.
You can also change the arrangement of your menu item either by adding more menus or changing the position.
Changing the Appearance of Your Text (Colors & Fonts): From the site Manager page, you can make changes to the colors and font of various areas on the site, e.g. background, sidebar gadget, content area and the navigation gadget area.
Theme: Google was able to provide numerous themes that you can choose from to make your site attractive with well defined colors and feel. You can preview each of the themes before applying your desired choice directly from this page.

OTHER FUNCTIONALITIES
Adding Images, Cropping, and Resizing: Included in the web page builder is the facility to insert images from either another website or from your computer. I was able to upload .jpg images using the image picker tool which also has the ability to move, crop, resize, and even change contrast and brightness of the image as desired by you.

Inserting Links: The web page wizard allows you to insert links to other websites. There is also a simple-to-use facility to link to pages that you have created within the Page Creator system, as well as to files you have already uploaded. If you are creating a link to a new page on your site, you will not have to mess about with getting the filename correct. The web editor handles this behind the scenes for you.

HTML TITLE Tag: When your page is created, Page Creator automatically forms your

Gadgets, Extensions and Web Apps: The interface also allows you to add gadgets and other Google functional tools to your website, such as a calendar, Google search box, etc. This may or may not appeal to you, depending on the purpose of your website, but it is right at your disposal.

Publishing Your Site: Publishing your website is as simple as clicking a button that says “Publish”. That’s it. You don’t have to mess around with FTP settings (the stumbling block for many newbie’s) or finding a web host (Google Pages is your host).

Online Web Builder Freezes: You might (like I have) experience some unresponsive downtime and the only way out might be to quit and re-login again or to go to “My Account” and re-enter the editor. Until this bug is fixed, or even when it is fixed, I would advise that you save your work regularly.

Service Uptime and Responsiveness seems good.

In Conclusion  Google Web Creator looks very promising. It has a simple, uncluttered interface that makes it easy for newcomers to quickly get their website published. Users can easily benefit from the selection of web templates and standard layouts to easily create their site. The developers appear to have put in some thought into the utility of the editor for the new webmaster, automating things that normally confuse them, such as automatically creating a TITLE tag from the user’s own title for the page. Other aspects of the service also show the same consideration given to usability – for example it is easy to add a link to another page and create the page that it links to without having to worry about filenames. The web builder automatically takes care of building the correct link to the page.

All in all, I would say that this free web service is useful for a novice who wants to create a simple website for fun, a group of students who want to handle their projects online, small entrepreneurs as well as professionals willing to maximize the various tools that Google has got to offer and also develop on it. It provides most of the rudimentary facilities for creating and publishing a website, and for the most part, makes the process simple. Among its benefits, it is possible to add other functionalities to one’s site like we were able to do on LagosGTUG site with the addition of an Event Calendar and the Blog tab. Winky!

Welcome to the Lagos GTUG

Greetings Everyone and welcome to 2010.
This year was heralded by the official approval of the Lagos Google Technology User Group (Lagos GTUG).
This group was created with the primary focus of sharing knowledge and thoughts about Google technologies among technology enthusiats in the Lagos region in particular and Nigeria in general.It is our hope that the group will attract innovators who exude the kind of spirit that we have come to associate with Google.
Together we hope to share knowledge about Google technologies such as Google App engine, Google Sites, Google Gadgets, Android, Google Wave and a host of other interesting Google and open source technologies.
This knowledge sharing will be done through the use of this blog, our mailing list , our website and of course a variety of Google events that will be holding in the general Lagos area.
So once again this is an invitation to open innovators from far and wide …..Welcome to the Lagos GTUG and we wish you all a fruitful year!!!