Do people still code HTML and CSS by hand?

There are times where using WYSIWYG tools and page builders makes sense. Equally, however, there are just as many scenarios where using a WYSIWYG editor is a recipe for hot disaster.

Do people still code HTML and CSS by hand? Of course they do.

In fact, every web developer should still be coding HTML and CSS by hand, even in current times where WYSIWYG editors and drag-and-drop page building tools are rife amongst the wider community.

The appeal of WYSIWYG editors and page builders is clear. They’re easy.

But in reality, they seldom meet a project’s requirements.

And while these popular tools may be useful at times, the corners they cut doesn’t always fair so well.

As we all know, when it comes to web design and development cutting corners is usually synonymous with subpar code.

In my opinion, the true answer to whether WYSIWYG editors and page builders are sufficient to ‘develop’ a website lies in the developer’s reasoning. What is the purpose of implementing these tools into the development workflow? — Is it to make aspects of the project easier, or is it because the developer is challenged by the prospect of writing code by hand?

Because, honestly, there are instances where adopting tools like this makes sense. Equally, however, there are just as many scenarios where using a WYSIWYG editor is a recipe for hot disaster.

The disadvantages of Page Builders and WYSIWYG

  • WYSIWYG tools and page builders tend to generate poorer quality code, on average
  • These tools come with inherent design limitations and only provide the flexibility endowed by the backend drag-and-drop features
  • Learning and ‘coding’ using WYSIWYG tools doesn’t teach web development; it teaches drag-and-drop
  • There is less control over the finished project when using a page builder, and an inherent lack of uniqueness that a developer is empowered with from manual design and development

If a web developer’s intention for using a drag-and-drop editor is to eradicate the need for any kind of coding or development work, the project’s end result is quite likely to be subpar. It probably won’t boast nearly as much functionality than is needed or desired, mainly due to the rigidity and inflexibility of WYSIWYG editors and page builders.

The reason that these tools are so rigid is down to the fact that each style, element and modular block added to the page is hard-coded in a very specific way in the backend of the drag-and-drop tool. There is no personality or customizability to these hard-coded elements when dragged onto the page.

This prevents the developer from making much manual change for specific segments or blocks on the page.

The benefits of coding web pages by hand

  • Less code — coding efficiently by hand tends to produce much cleaner, leaner code
  • Faster loading code — writing the code manually avoids the problem of excess and redundant code and libraries, often associated with WYSIWYG tools and page builders
  • Easier to understand — both yourself and future developers, will have a much easier time understanding the function and purpose of hand-written code
  • No concerns regarding future support and cross compatibility — machine-generated code can create issues relating to future version support and cross-compatibility, a concern which hand-written code doesn’t bring
  • Hand-written code is easier to perform manual edits on
  • Developers have greater control over their code when it has been written themselves, allowing them to make more intricate changes to its function
  • Code that is hand-written facilitates longer-term learning and doesn’t stunt a developer’s growth and code knowledge

In contrast, there are definitely elements of the web development process where manually writing code can prove to be highly redundant. In instances like this, WYSIWYG tools make a lot of sense.

Manually coding every single blog post using raw HTML, for instance, is a complete waste of time.

In this case, a lean WYSIWYG editor or drag-and-drop page builder makes a lot more sense.

It makes the process of producing the post a lot more efficient. It also makes it easier to make quick updates or changes in the future.

If you are employing the use of a WYSIWYG editor or page builder for simple tasks (such as the above), in areas where their use can minimize the time spent unnecessarily in code, you’re likely to get a positive return on your choice of time allocation.

They key word here is ‘unnecessarily’. Like it or not, there are occasions where spending time neck-deep in code is a plain requirement.

Overall, yes — developers do still code HTML and CSS by hand, but we definitely feel that there are times when this is more appropriate than others.

One of the benefits of website themes and templates is the ability to massively reduce the time spent in code for site builders and web developers.

The case for form vs function

WYSIWYG editors and page builders are largely a case of form versus function.

For websites that require primarily form, where the quality of the design is of the utmost importance, nothing can quite beat the level of detail and intricate design that can only be produced by a competent, creative and skilled web developer.

On the other hand, for websites where function is the primary importance, such as a Wiki or HowTo site, design flexibility is nowhere near as important. For sites like these, user-generated content and text usually make up the bulk of the website’s pages and purpose.

For websites such as this, the frequent use of WYSIWYG text editing tools might be more appropriate on a regular basis.

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