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I learned a new word today... ‘hand-coder'.

I learned a new word today... ‘hand-coder'.
Heath Huffman - Mon Nov 27, 2006 @ 03:57AM
Comments: 35

I put an ad in at SitePoint a few days ago for ‘CSS Web Designers" to try out doodlekit for free and to offer 3 of the best designers a free website.  What did I get?  I got a handful of people who only knew Dreamweaver or some other WYSIWYG editor apply... but none that actually understood or worked with HTML/XHTML and CSS.


So I started looking around the web.  Maybe I wasn't using the right terminology.  Looks like I was correct.  The appropriate word I should have posted was ‘hand-coder'.  Hand-coders are those individuals that write their own HTML/XHTML and CSS (like me).

There has been a large controversy over whether or not those individuals who use Dreamweaver, Front Page, and other WYSIWYG tools should be considered web developers.  Both sides have good points.  Below are some links to discussions/articles about this very subject:

To me most if it falls into this type of analogy about breakfast at a restaurant:

  • You can have breakfast served to you in 5 minutes created from frozen pre-made items that have been heated up in a microwave and served with a cup of generic coffee. Most of the time it's OK... but sometimes your hash brown or egg biscuit is still frozen in the middle or over cooked.
  • You can have breakfast made from scratch, where the cook knows every ingredient and can change those ingredients for each individual plate - served exactly the way you like it - but it takes a little longer and costs a little more.

Which is better?  Of course, that depends.  If your in a hurry and need something done within a certain timeframe, on a tight budget, and are willing to take chances on quality - choice #1 would be best.  If you are into quality and are more of a perfectionist - choice #2.

I will say this however - no WYSIWYG will ever be comparable to a hand-coder (unless it's a bad hand-coder!).  There are just too many situations where you have to pop the hood to find out why something isn't working the way it is supposed to be.  And even if you know a lot about HTML/XHTML and CSS, when you use a WYSIWYG, you get stuck with a generic "framework" that might not have been the best choice.  You can throw some salt and pepper and maybe even some ketchup on that egg McMuffin, but its still just an egg McMuffin.

The best example that I can think of for becoming a hand-coder vs. a WYSIWYG user is this:


What I mean is that dkadvanced is all about overwriting existing CSS from our doodlekit™ website builder to customize your layouts.  You cannot do that with any WYSIWYG.  And it's not just this site... there are lots of web products that allow you to customize your look and feel by overwriting and creating your own custom CSS.  Not to mention the complexity of intertwining backend code into your front end code.  If you don't know CSS and HTML that well... that can be disastrous.

In conclusion, I would like to say that using a WYSIWYG editor or ‘hand-coding' depends upon the individual/company.  There are lots of McDonald's restaurants out there and lots of people who like McDonalds. But there are plenty of people who like an omelet made with cheese, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, and some Tabasco - cooked a little runny, with some homemade jelly and toast on the side!

Here at doodlekit™, we make breakfast from scratch!

Comments: 35


1. Ben Kittrell   |   Mon Nov 27, 2006 @ 11:50AM

I remember when I first started "hand coding", I was so proud to put a "Created in Notepad" button at the bottom of each page. I guess anytime you have a lucrative industry, you're going to have people that really don't know what they're doing, trying to make it look like they do.

Mmmm, now I want some homemade biscuits and gravy.

2. Duncan Beevers   |   Sat Dec 09, 2006 @ 12:07PM

I think the key to good design is knowing which tools are appropriate for which jobs.

Noticed some bumps in your markup.

3. Heath Huffman   |   Mon Dec 11, 2006 @ 01:20PM

It does depend upon the job, that’s for sure. Designing doodlekit layouts, you cannot use a WYSIWYG editor for the design. We do use WYSIWYG for the content that the user enters however. They are not expected to know HTML or CSS.

Hehehe - yeah... I haven't had the time to clean up every layout to make it completely HTML 4.01 compliant. That's not a good excuse – it’s just been an issue of priorities I guess. And even though I cannot control the content that users put into their websites, I should still make 'my' code W3C compliant.

4. J. Jeffryes   |   Wed Feb 14, 2007 @ 06:23AM

I think you're missing an important third category, the hand coder that uses Dreamweaver.

That's how I do it. I can code by hand, but it's much faster AND better to use a tool like Dreamweaver to preview what you're doing as you create it. Sure, you can let it create sloppy code for you, but you can also just use it as a previewer and helper while you code things the way you want them.

You're going to get only a small percentage of the design world to do everything in NotePad. If we want to push the ideals of clean, efficient code, we have to meet the non-coders halfway, and admit that Dreamweaver and other editors aren't the devil. Like any tool they can be used for good or ill.

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