Today, Google released Google Pages, a free web page builder with free hosting. Being a fan of all things free and Google, I decided to give it a whirl.

From a user’s perspective, it’s pretty good. It’s easy to use, fast and responsive, with a good selection of design options. Bring a big monitor, though — at 1024×768 with my browser maximized there were times that not everything fit on the screen. That wouldn’t be a problem if there were scrollbars. But there’s not, so it is.

From a developer’s point-of-view, it needs a lot of work. Granted, compared to a lot of WYSIWYG editors it’s not half bad. It uses a valid XHTML 1.0 Strict doctype, it uses CSS for layout, and… that’s about all that’s good about it.

Of course it doesn’t validate, that would be too much to ask. But some of the reasons that it doesn’t validate seem silly. For example:

<!-- Hack to avoid flash of unstyled content in IE -->
<script> </script>

It’s swell that they thought to do this. Shame they didn’t throw a type="text/javascript" attribute on the <script> tag so it wouldn’t throw an error.

There’s also a liberal scattering of <br>s where there should be <br />s and <hr>s where there should be <hr />s. These are not world-shattering, but they seem like sloppy mistakes coming from developers who have chosen to go with XHTML/CSS.

Then there’s this:

<img src="" height="96" width="81">

No end tag, but more importantly, no alt attribute, and no way to add one unless you edit the XHTML yourself.

There’s also a lot of excess <div> and <p> baggage scattered around, but that’s to be expected. None of these mistakes are deal-breakers for their intended audience, but it just seems so unnecessary. No doubt new web developers will use this to create their first web pages, then look at the source code as an example of how to write web pages. And what they learn will be wrong.

So, as a user I give Google Pages a B and as a developer I give it a C-, which averages out to a C grade. Hopefully by 2012, when this thing comes out of beta, it will be deserving of an A.