Help in the clouds

Earlier this week, Google announced the launch of the Google Apps Marketplace, promising a one-stop shop for Web-based applications.

Organisations will be able to build their individual suite of Web-based applications that integrate with Google’s own applications (for example, its word-processor and email applications). The idea is that you’ll have “best of breed” applications from a range of suppliers, rather than a suite from just one vendor.

Google are likely to be followed in this field by Microsoft and others. For example, the UK government has initiated the G-Cloud initiative, allowing local and central government departments to share centrally hosted applications.

So will there be a “best of breed” user interface for users, or will it be a messy hodge-pot of different user interface designs? What’s more, how will the user assistance, online Help, be provided across each individual suite?

It appears, in Google’s case, the integration is limited – data and logins will be shared, but there are no rules for how the UI or user assistance is delivered.

Google’s “Listing Approval Checklist” only covers these points:

1.Verify your product or service utilizes a Google Apps API or Google Apps product
2.Verify your listing and product follows Google’s branding guidelines
3.Verify your listing links to a web site that relates to the product or service in the listing
4.Review the Listing Policy FAQ

Having no policy (over the UI and UA) may not matter. However, it could be the Apps Marketplace’s Achilles’ heel. Perhaps this will provide an opportunity for any enterprising Help Authoring Tool vendors out there.

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