WYSIWYG is an acronym that stands for “What You See Is What You Get” and in the web design world, refers to applications like Adobe Dreamweaver, MS FrontPage, ExpressionWeb and other similar programs that allow people with no knowledge of HTML and CSS to create websites.
Users of these applications erroneously refer to themselves as ‘web designers’ and often make a living by building websites with these apps for the unsuspecting public.
“So what’s wrong with that?” You ask.
Well, let me ask you something…Because you know how to use Google Translate, are you now a ‘translater’? Would you open a business where you offer translation services while letting Google translate do the work for you? I hope that most folk will answer ‘No’…though in this day and age, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Building a website with a WYSIWYG program is a lot like using Google Translate. If you don’t understand the languages (HTML and CSS), you can’t fix the problems. Just like viewing a previously English paragraph that Google Translate has converted into Afrikaans…if you don’t speak Afrikaans fluently, you might not even be aware that there are problems with the translation…and let’s not be naive…there will be problems. Unbeknownst to you or your client, the web page might look different in IE9 than it does in IE10, or perhaps there will be an issue that prevents webcrawlers from successfully gleaning the content of a page. Whatever the case, you won’t be able to fix it.
If you use WYSIWYG programs instead of learning HTML and CSS, you are not a web designer. You are a fraud. You are flooding the market, stealing jobs from real web designers and putting out a sub par product. Whatever you are charging, it’s not worth it to your clients.
Who is really to blame?
I have seen plenty of educational institutions offering courses on these WYSIWYG programs. Any real web designer knows that you can build a website with something as simple as MS NotePad, but using more advanced text editors can save a bit of time because of useful functionality like:
- Doing a ‘Find & Replace’ for a snippet of code across multiple pages
- Numbered lines and colour coding to help you find snippets of code quicker
…so if you are using these WYSIWYG programs as glorified text editors, that is fine, but any course that teaches you to be reliant on them is not worth the tuition fee. A course should first and foremost teach you to understand the languages.
Besides educational centres, I’ve also seen plenty of job listings where knowledge of one of these WYSIWYG programs is listed as a requirement. This is usually the result of an ignorant HR / marketing person posting the advert. If you can build a website using the simplest text editor, you are a proper web designer and have no need for training wheels like Dreamweaver. Explain this to your interviewer so we can stop misinformation.
Have some Pride
If you are going to make money offering web design, then for goodness sake, have some pride and do it properly. HTML and CSS are easy to learn, and if you can’t afford a certified course, there are countless free tutorials online.
For those who don’t know where to start, I’ve provided some useful links…
- W3 Schools – Free Online Web Tutorials
- PS Pad – Free Text Editor
- Sublime Text 2 – Free Text Editor
- Notepad++ – Free Text Editor
- W3C Validator – Code Error Checker
- FileZilla – Free Website Uploader
- Coda 2 – Very nice editor for Mac (not free though)