David Card faults Google for providing a search engine without a lot of help for users. I didn’t have any trouble creating a custom search engine for a site where I’m a domain expert and integrating the results within my site’s templates, but David has touched on a general problem with Google’s efforts.
Documentation is spotty at best and the tools are designed for hard-core techies. I’ve been using Google Analytics for about a year, and I’m still learning interesting and useful things that I can do with it. I’m also discovering that many of the statistics don’t mean what I thought they did. I would love to make more use of Google Maps in some personal projects, but Google’s tools are too programmer-oriented and I haven’t had the time to seek out more polished third-party tools for map integration. Google Base feels like something you could do lots of fun stuff with, but I’m going to need more than an API to get me started.
In our most recent survey of online consumers, we found that about a quarter of the US online population is now creating its own content and the percentage of bloggers has more than doubled. When anybody can be a Web producer, it’s critical to provide tools that are both powerful and simple. Your core customers are now talented and curious amateurs and no longer programmers looking for an API. And perhaps you shouldn’t be depending on the kindness of strangers to serve your best customers.
Widgetbox gets this right with good-looking, well-presented tools that can be implemented without a lot of head-scratching. A big part of their strategy is to provide distribution to large sites looking to tap into the market of amateur Web producers who just want to solve a problem or have some fun. I wish Google made it this easy to get started with their tools.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.