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Five features to explore in Google Web Designer
Monday, April 11, 2016
Since the public launch of Google Web Designer it has been exciting to see so many features evolve and new features being released. We are very grateful for all the great feedback we get from all of you, which has helped us to shape and further refine the current set of features.
So without further ado, let’s review five features and workflows you may find most useful in Google Web Designer.
1. Fluid layouts
Historically Google Web Designer only supported visual authoring of static layouts, where all elements were absolutely positioned and had their top, left, width and height styles set in pixels. This works well when all the content has a fixed size but doesn’t work so well when the top-most container size varies. Even small changes can require all the elements to be manually re-positioned.
So in order to support authoring ‘fluid’ layouts, the first step we took was to allow users to use percentages when setting any of those positioning styles. Allowing elements size and position to be defined as a percentage of the size of their container lets them shrink and grow with the container, but keeps the overall structure unchanged. While this covers the simple case of having a single element, it does not make the layout fluid when elements have a mix of fixed and percent-based sizes. To assist in the latter case, we added a fluid layout checkbox that can be combined with the existing alignment, distribution and spacing to calculate the correct layout position.
Here is an example to illustrate how the fluid layout checkbox works:
Below you can see an element containing an image and a Tap Area component. The image has a width of 50% and the button has a fixed size width of 50px.
If we shrink the container width down, the image element would automatically shrink too, as if scale were applied.
On the other hand, the tap area would remain unchanged and bleed over the container’s right edge. So let's try this: select both elements, and from the selection tool options check the Fluid layout option. Immediately after that click on the ‘space horizontally’ button.
Because fluid layout is enabled and we are aligning to the container, space horizontally will then calculate the correct styles to apply to each element inside the container in order to keep the same layout. This results in both the image and tap area resizing proportionally to their container.
In the following illustrations below you can see that we have shrunk and grown the size of the container while maintaining the layout.
2. Publish to Google Drive
Google Web Designer allows you to publish a document directly to Google Drive. At first it might seem that this is just an easy way to share your content or maybe have a separate backup of your published content. But by taking a few extra steps you can use this feature to preview your creative on any browser, desktop or mobile. Move through the steps below to enable serving your creative from Google Drive:
Start by creating a document and when you are ready to publish, select ‘Publish to Google Drive”.
Enter your Google credentials.
Leave the default options in the publish dialog, and click on Publish.
Once publish is completed, you can now open your browser and navigate to: drive.google.com
At the top of your list of files (if you sort by date) you should see a new folder named after your document.
Right click on that folder and select ‘Share…’
Click on get shareable link which enables link sharing on that folder.
Now double click that folder to go inside of it. You should now see your published files.
Right click on index.html and again click on ‘Share…’
In the dialog that opens click on the ‘get shareable link’. At this point you will see the shareable link for that file. Here is what that link will look like: https://drive.google.com/file/d/
Copy the ID (the part of your link that’s like the bolded part, above) in a separate text document.
Append that ID to the following url to preview serve you document in any browser. www.googledrive.com/host/[ID] (replace [ID] with your file ID).
What is really cool about this, is that if you later make a change to the document, publish again and refresh your browser, you will now see the changes to your document. Publish to Drive will always override your existing content unless you specify a different location.
Bring (build) your own component. In Google Web Designer we try to have good set of built-in components. Some of those components are generic yet they do allow a bit of customization. As we continue building components and improving the existing ones, we also want to make sure users can have access to tailored components. To ensure this, we have added the ability to add your own components to Google Web Designer. The best part of this feature is that each custom component is packaged in a zip file, which can easily be shared. Once imported the custom components will behave just like one of the native components.
You can add a custom component by simply clicking on the ‘+’ button in the component panel and select the .zip file that contains your custom component. Once you drag and drop the component on stage, it is added to the document and can immediately be used. A custom component can also specify any number of external dependencies in the component manifest, which will be automatically imported into your document.
For more information on custom components, visit this link:
Building a custom component
4. Custom swatches
Having a great color palette often makes a big impact when creating rich content. Google Web Designer’s color panel enables the user to pick a large number of default colors, create new colors and design complex gradients.
The really cool part about creating gradients or custom colors is the ability to save it as a custom swatch. If you click on the swatches tab, you will see the list of default colors, and at the end of the list is a ‘+’ icon. A click on that icon will save the currently selected color or gradient as a custom swatch.
Last but not least is Google Web Designer’s Group feature. Grouping allows you to create reusable objects that can be placed in a document, much like components. The benefit of groups is that any changes made to the group will be reflected every place the group is used. This eliminates the need to copy and paste, which also provides the added benefit of a smaller file size since we only need to store one instance. When publishing a document you will have the option to ‘unpack’ all instances which will replace those instances with the actual content of the group. Or you can decide to have this replacement done at runtime, which will decrease the file size as well.
Another great benefit of groups is that when there are no instances in your document, groups are stored in a separate companion file. This means that they will not count towards your total file size! In other words you don’t have to remove unused groups as long as no instances are placed in your document.
Groups will also encapsulate animations. When you create a group from elements that are animated, those animations are now part of your groups. Any instances placed on stage will animate relative to where they are positioned.
Finally groups can be used to create dynamic galleries which can have multiple elements in each frame instead of a single image. For more info on dynamic galleries visit this link:
So there you have it, a few of our top features for you to try. I hope you found this useful and please let us know what you think in the comments or feel free to write in about your favorite features!
Posted by Valerio, UX Engineer
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