Spring Forward Web Design
Build your own Site... Control your own Future!
Recently, the folks at Facebook announced they had developed a format to replace email. This was reported as a “Google Killer” intended to replace Gmail. Google in turn has tried to capture the social networking market with a variety of products from Orkut and Wave to Buzz – all without much success. Both sides are spending millions of dollars trying to set the course for the future of the web. Neither is winning because neither seems to understand what the public wants and needs from the internet.
Let’s start with Facebook. On the plus side, they offer the public a couple of free web pages. On these pages, you can enlist friends, post messages and put up a few pictures. On the minus side, the pages are slow to load, the functions are difficult to use, and there is absolutely no possibility of doing anything like running a business from them. It is like being given a really cheap car – but one that is missing an engine! It can’t take you anywhere you really want to go. The graphic user interface (GUI) is so primitive, it looks like it was designed by a ten year old during their morning recess.
Speaking of which, my 10 year old daughter has lots of complaints about her Facebook page. She wants her friends to join Facebook so they can exchange messages online. But many of her friends can not get past what she calls the “log in test.” Those that make it past this hurdle cannot understand how to make the Facebook controls work. So if Google really wants to take on Facebook, the first thing they should do is hire a bunch of 5th Grader Teachers to help design the GUI so that even a 5th Grader can work the controls. Point #1: The public wants and needs free web pages which are simple and intuitive.
My daughter also complains about how painfully slow Facebook pages are to load. They get even slower when users put in images with are not optimized for the web. But rather than trying to teach millions of 10 year olds how to optimize images (not going to happen), Google simply should do the work for them. Point #2: The public wants and needs web pages which anticipate and prevent problems so they can load quickly and work flawlessly regardless of the skill level of the owner.
My daughter does like Farmville (a game on Facebook). But once again, the Farmville pages load too slow, many processes are not obvious and too many parts of the game require spending a small fortune on horseshoes. Point #3: Games are good. Excessive greed is bad.
My daughter is an artist. So she would also like to customize the appearance of her web pages. But she is not interested in learning HTML, CSS, PHP or Java Script. What she is good at is following brief, simple instructions, filling out forms and clicking buttons. Point #4: Give users the power to design their own web pages with a series of simple clicks. Include more graphics and clearer instructions.
My daughter also wants to start her own business - selling pictures of fluffy kittens. Amazingly, her friends want to buy them. Google understands the commercial potential of the internet way better than any other company on the planet. They should help new start up businesses develop commercial websites with just a few clicks right from their Gmail pages. More business pages means more business for Google Ads. Point #5: Don’t just give folks free web pages. Give them web pages they can do something with!
My daughter also wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Moodle, an open source content management system, offers teachers a primitive GUI for building course instructional websites. Certainly, Google could do even better if they put their mind to it. They lead the world in organizing information. Point #6: Use the power of the internet to offer free instructional websites for information sharing.
My daughter also does not like going back and forth between her email page and her Facebook page. What she really needs is a Relationship and Content Management System that allows her to organize her own contacts and build her own web pages. Think of it as a cross between Facebook, Joomla and Wordpress, with an option to add anything from an Art Gallery to a Political Campaign. Did I mention that my daughter wants to run for Class President? And she wants to post her soccer pictures? And she just got a new video camera? She doesn’t just want to post videos, she wants to set up video conferences with her friends! Point #7: Make the site fully extensible so it can grow from a starter page to a hundred pages serving a wide variety of purposes - all controlled from a central GUI.
All Google needs to do to win the war with Facebook is to better understand what people want and need from web pages – and then give them the tools so they can build it themselves. If you provide folks with tools that are truly simple, well organized and expandable to meet their current and future social, educational and commercial needs, the public will toss Facebook aside like a Bad Apple!