Once upon a time much earlier in my career, a coworker observed me composing code in a basic text editor and described the approach as, “Spartan.” I argued that my argument was cleaner, leaner, and all together better. My coworker argued that WYSIWYG code was more convenient and efficient.
In the time since, I’ve progressed in my choice of web editors; nowadays, I usually stick to Adobe Dreamweaver to get the job done. Despite Dreamweaver’s code-generating capabilities, however, I generally stick to code view and never allow it to do more than fill in some end tags. With all the modern amenities at my disposal, I still practice Spartan coding.
Why? Because I recognize that the convenience of WYSIWYG comes at a high price. Don’t believe me? Consider a few of the following points and see if you feel the same about your beloved WYSIWYG editors afterward.
- WYSIWYG editors makes you lazy. Web professionals may not be athletes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to practice to stay on top of our game. Coding by hand might seem more difficult, but, much like PHP’s white screen of death, it helps keep you sharp. With WYSIWYG, you’re actually wasting time and effort to increase your expertise with a program rather than the code that’s your livelihood.
- WYSIWYG code is bloated. Try to export a Word document as a web page some time and see what the code looks like. It’s ripe with repetitive font tags and arbitrary classes that add unnecessary size to the document. Don’t think size is important in the age of high-speed internet? Tell that to visitor using a cell phone.
- WYSIWYG code is hard to maintain. As far as the browser and the user are concerned, things like indentation and tag casing aren’t a big deal. However, it’s hardly a courteous way to code. Somebody will have to come along and maintain your code at some point in the future. Hand-crafted code will make the job easier; auto-generated code will make it harder.
- WYSIWYG code isn’t up to design standards. Nowadays, using tables for layout is a cardinal sin, but that’s exactly what you’ll get when you use the Adobe Photoshop slice tool. The bottom line is, if you want to produce rich, standards-compliant code, WYSIWYG is not the way to do it.
- WYSIWYG code isn’t necessarily more efficient. As Andy Clark points out in his book, Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, taking the time to develop meaningful, well-structured code makes it highly reusable, which can drastically increase your long-term efficiency.