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Web builders and PowerPoint

June 13th, 2008 - Category: Usability, Web 2.0 | .

Microsoft PowerPoint has been around for a few years. I’m sure that Microsoft borrowed the GUI from some other program, but I’ve always liked it. It’s super-simple and immediately intuitive. “Click here to edit title” is very difficult to get wrong. In a way, the GUI philosophy is similar to Google’s, in that users aren’t really expected to learn anything, they just click where it says “click”.

Web building tools, though, have taken a while to get as simple and intuitive. In part, this is because drag-and-drop GUIs have been difficult to do robustly on the web. But as these problems are addressed by a number of tools and libraries, there is really no reason why editing a website could not be as simple as making a presentation. Or simpler.
The startup hailstorm known as web 2.0 naturally includes a few dozen companies tackling the challenge of visual web building. ReadWriteWeb has an interesting rundown of some leading contenders. Weebly seems to be pulling ahead of the field. And their tool is impressive, if a little flaky. (Weebly is also the only tool on the list offering a live demo. That tells me they believe in their product. More importantly, people will actually bother to try it.)
Now the market needs to get more clumpy. Even with the latest web 2.0 toolkits, it is a lot of work to build these GUI-intensive tools, at least if you’re aiming for desktop-app robustness in most browsers. The testing alone can keep a small development team occupied for months. As bigger companies enter the market (as Lycos appears to have done with Webon), the products will get more mature, and we’ll start to see a new level of competition. And PowerPoint-style web building will truly have arrived.

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