Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pros and Cons of WYSIWYG Editors

There are many benefits to "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) HTML editors. But there are also some drawbacks. Before you join the debate, learn all the facts. I define an editor as a WYSIWYG editor if it's primary editing mode is WYSIWYG, even if it includes a text editing option.
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Most advanced Web development tools these days offer the ability to edit your Web pages in both HTML/code view and in WYSIWYG. So the distinction is not as strict.

What's All the Fuss About?
This argument really stems from the way tht Web page development started. When it first began in the early- to mid- 1990s, building a Web page required that you be able to write HTML code, but as editors got more and more sophisticated they allowed people who didn't know HTML to build Web pages. The problem was (and often, still is) that WYSIWYG editors can generate HTML that is hard to read, not standards compliant and only really editable in that editor. HTML code purists believe that this is a corruption of the intent of Web pages. While designers feel that whatever makes it easy for them to build their pages is acceptable and even valuable.
  • Easy to use
    WYSIWYG editors allow novice Web developers to get up and running quickly.
  • Focused on Design
    Most WYSIWYG editors allow the developer to focus more on how the page looks than on how the HTML looks. This provides people with more creative room.
  • Specific Tasks Faster
    It is possible to do specific tasks much faster using a WYSIWYG editor than a text editor. For example, tables can be created with most WYSIWYG editors using a visual layout of the table. This is often much faster than typing out all the tags by hand.
  • Less Likely to Make Mistakes
    While most text editors include tag validation or integrate with a validator, if you don't use the tools, you can still write tables without end tags that won't display in Netscape. WYSIWYG does the tags for you, so the only mistakes you'll make are in the design.
  • Less Employability
    Employers and hiring managers want someone who can use whatever tool they are given to create a Web page. This is sometimes referred to as a "Vanila Web Developer". When you know HTML, you can use nearly any editor with success. When you only know a WYSIWYG editor, you are not as easily transferrable and people don't want to hire that.
  • Very Product Specific
    When you learn how to use a WYSIWYG editor, you are learning a software product. If your next company doesn't use that product, you have to start all over learning a new one.
  • "Funky" HTML
    While they are getting better, most WYSIWYG editors create really convoluted HTML that is difficult to read. If the page must be edited in six months by someone else they will have a hard time unless they are using the exact same editor you used.
  • Lack of Control
    Sometimes it can be very difficult to make pinpoint adjustments to HTML using a WYSIWYG editor. Most support all the attributes of the tags, but to make changes to them, you have to go into option menus and other convoluted locations to find and edit them.
  • Extra Mousing
    If you experience pain in your wrists (or as I do, your shoulder) this may be caused by a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Using the mouse is a really good way to get an RSI, and WSYIWYG editors usually rely heavily on the mouse to position elements.
  • For Professional Web Developers
    If you want to make Web Development your profession, and you don't plan on opening your own Web Design studio, then I would recommend learning HTML and using a text editor. If you stick with a combination of HomeSite and Dreamweaver, you can get all the benefits of the text editor and then use Dreamweaver for your design.
  • For Non-Professional Web Developers
    If you want to do Web Development as a hobby, there is no reason not to use a WYSIWYG editor. They are easy to use and give you good functionality. I would stick to lower priced HTML editors, all the extra bells and whistles you'll probably never use anyway.

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