Google Web Designer: the Review

Last October 2013, Google launched their WYSIWYG tool called the Google Web Designer, taking the market by surprise. The application is completely free and is targeted towards the development of HTML5 projects.

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Google Web Designer couldn’t have come at a better time. For starters, Microsoft has already dropped their Expression Web Suit, and then Flash seems to have hit an impasse despite being the de facto standard for many advertising banners. The fact that Apple isn’t feeling any pressure to allow Flash on their iOS devices is indicative of the API’s future. Adobe is currently promoting Creative cloud, but it’s a paid service that can easily become expensive for casual users.

Setup and Installation

It may sound surprising given Google’s preference for web-based applications, but Google Web Designer is an installable application. There’s support for Windows 7 and newer, as well as Mac OS X 10.7 and newer. Similar to Google Chrome’s installer, Google Web Designer’s client is only a few hundred Kb but only serves as a downloader for the main installation files, so make sure you have an Internet connection at the ready when installing the application.

The Program Itself

Google Web Designer will take a little bit of time during the first startup, but the experience shouldn’t be that much of a dealbreaker especially considering that web based apps from Google take longer.

Once GWB loads, you’ll be greeted by an interface that looks like a cross between Word for Expression and Creative Suite. The theme seems to be darker than what you’d expect from Google, but nothing that breaks aesthetics or usability. Although like any application with a wealth of tools, you might want to do a little customization in order to make it more suitable to your preferences. For instance, the right hand property panel might look cluttered for most people especially if you have a small monitor.

One thing worth noting is that the name “Web Designer” might be a misnomer, because the application is geared more towards creating CSS3 animations on HTML5-based adverts instead of being a straightforward web design tool. Basically, Google Web Designer is more akin to an animator’s tool than it is a web developer’s.


As mentioned above, Google Web Designer is geared more towards the creation of animated adverts using HTML5, and as far as animating is concerned, it’s fairly straightforward and shouldn’t be difficult for people who are familiar with keyframing and tweening. GWB also comes with a “Quick” animation mode that allows novices to create an animated element using simple keyframes, but it also comes with an “Advanced” mode that depends on frame timelines. However, it is important to pick one that you’ll stick to until the end of the project, because there’s no option to switch between Advanced and Quick mode once you’ve started.

On the whole, it’s easy enough for novices and power users alike. If you just need to do simple animations, there’s no need to drop into code view or add CSS properties, but the option is there if you need it.

Google Web Designer is free and is admittedly still in beta stage, so keep that in mind when we say that there are several flaws. First is that the HTML source could use some optimization. As it stands right now, the results are overloaded with unnecessary divs, ids, and classes – par for the course for WYSWYG editors but something that Google might want to improve. Additionally, the byproducts you’ll create with GWB will only be working 100% correctly on Webkit browsers. If a large number of your target viewers are using Firefox or Opera, you might want to opt for Flash-based adverts until Google fixes this one minor yet possibly dealbreaking flaw.


At the end of the day, if the lack of support for non Webkit browsers is not a problem for you, Google Web Designer is a great choice. It’s free, it has a decent looking and functional UI, and creating animations with it is a breeze. Otherwise, you might want to wait until Google adds support for other browsers and just use GWB for quick prototyping.


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