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Do website generators and WYSIWYG programs really help?

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by , 6 Feb 2009 at @ 20.18 (1107 Views)
Do website generators and WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) programs really help?

((thought id bring this over :thinking)

I suppose this is an ongoing debate depending on the skill level of the user.

I personally am not ashamed to admit that i too started off designing my personal sites in microsoft publisher, and for a while was blissfully unaware with the problems this would cause, unaware of any such thing as browser compatibility, css and even what a div box was it was only when i was asked by a close friend to design a site on their behalf with offer of payment on completion that i began to realise any problems.
Although i was a beginner, in my eyes i had just designed my own site so of course i accepted right away presuming it would be enough to be able to draw boxes on my workspace in publisher and type in the text they needed. It was only when they tested the site on their home browser that my problems began.

You see the problem with publisher in particular is that you do not really have an awful lot of control over how your site displays or how it is interpreted, sure you can change the font face and the colour but you cannot turn things into headers or apply classes etc - all the things that search engines penalise sites for.

The client i was designing for was very happy with their new site....on my computer, but on their home browser, the site didnt display at all except for the pretty background - i had naively covered the whole page as a huge image to achieve the 'background'

Publisher is also unable to check your coding for conflicts or errors, it simply generates the coding as per your desing and outputs this (sometimes in absolute gobbledygook aka publishers interpretation of html code)

Using generators or wysiwyg programs is sort of like using an online translator to speak to a native frenchman, they can loosely translate your phrases and you can sort of get your point across but its not always what you are actually trying to say. Its not enough nowadays with all of the strict guidelines for validation, accesibility and search engine optimisation to have a loosly coded site, you need more control over what you are doing and what is actually going into your site and making sure it is exactly as you want it to be. i dont disagree with WYSIWYG editors completely, dreamweaver is an excellent base for users to design a clean and professional looking website which complies with modern web standards. Most users are put off by the range of functions you can use in these sort of programs and continue to use the generator programs out of ease, and whilst i understand the thinkin here....the amount of controls within dreameaver give you just a glimpse of what you can achieve within your site, rather than the basic controls in publisher (And others) that resemble only an advanced ms paint program.

My advice to anybody starting out is not to go the easy way, but to take the time to actually learn what you are doing, html and css requires skill but is very easy to learn and it is amazing what you can achieve, examples of beautiful web design are here css Zen Garden: The Beauty in CSS Design, ok so the designers that have listed pages on that site are advanced users, but it just goes to show what can be achieved.

In my personal experience, taking the easier route usually involves coming up against many problems which could have been cut out right from the start by learning the 'proper' way of doing things, there are many fantastic free resources available online nowadays and millions of support forums such as this one where people are more than happy to offer advice and i have not yet found a subject which a 'for dummys' book has not been produced for!!

Its not that i have anything against these programs or even the people that use them, i understand the predicament and can appreciate that alot of people just do not find the time to start from scratch or have the cash to instruct a site to be made, which is fine, for personal use, but when it comes to business, the importance of a website nowadays is just as important as its products, or shop front, or employees, it all comes hand in hand.

Just with a simple search of 'design website' or 'create webpage' there are a number of fantastic sites, aimed at the beginner for setting up a website. Once you have nailed the basics you will be on your way to creating a beautiful and fully functional site with no worries about the jargon that the likes of publisher add to a site.

another useful link to bookmark is the w3schools online web tutorial which contains online working examples W3Schools Online Web Tutorials

good luck
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  1. shalom_m's Avatar
    The problem with wysiwyg generators is that in many cases you get more than you see.

    The code these generators produce is heavy and cumbersome and in many cases does not comply with W3C validation rules.

    This I thought was the biggest drawback of wysiwyg generators.

    A few weeks ago, on a forum that shall not be named, a designer posted an incredibly innovative idea as a .jpg graphic. She had trouble in converting her idea into HTML/CSS. I knew it could be done, but never did something like this before, so I accepted the challenge, requested her graphics and got to work.

    Needles to say, it was quite a bit more difficult, time and coffee consuming than I originally envisaged but I got the job done.

    Carefully, I tested it in FF, IE6, IE7, Safari, Opera and Google Chrome. Made some minor adjustments and posted it to test on Mac and Linux too. The result: Passed all tests!

    I proudly sent off a mail with the link to the lady. She was happy too It was exactly like on the original .jpg. Then I sent her the HTML and CSS, zipped.

    Within an hour she mailed me and claimed that the file must have been damaged. I resent the file, once zipped and once plain. Still she claimed that the files were garbaged. I gave her a username and password to download the files on my server. Reply again garbage!

    I asked her what exotic browser she was using.

    It's not the browser; was the reply on the browser it looked fine Dreamweaver was not rendering the code properly. Quickly I dug out my old DW (an old Dreamweaver MX 2004 V7) and to my dismay; the page that rendered so beautifully on all browsers was all over the place.

    No problems, I thought, I a couple of minutes I will have the page behaving on DW too. I spent more than twice the already spent development time trying to make it work on DW. Result: Failure!

    I then meekly suggested that she work directly on the code the page looks good on all browsers anyway. To my surprise, this lady, a website developer with a portfolio as long as your arm, had no idea how to add text and pictures to a page without the aid of DW!

    Now my question is: "Can someone call himself/herself a web-developer/designer without being able to read/write a few snippets of HTML?"