Webmaster Elitism – Part 1 Hand Coding

I have some pet peeves about the elitist attitudes of some web designers. They seem to feel that the way they do it is the only way to do it, and that anyone who fails to do it their way, is somehow inferior. One of those issues, involves hand coding.

Their assertion is that hand coding is always superior to that created by a WYSIWYG HTML editor.

My assertion is that 99% of the time, a WYSIWYG editor will produce a superior result. Because 99% of the time, the site is being coded by someone who has an insufficient understanding of code to produce superior code.

The fact is that human error is responsible for more poor site performance than even bad WYSIWYG editors. And human error doesn’t just cause non-compliant or oddly coded sites. It causes major problems. Well, the one exception would be MicroSoft Word – there are people who think that it is an HTML editor, and it is NOT. It out classes the worst human errors. But as a rule, people are the source of the greatest mistakes, and the mistaken notion that hand coding is somehow superior is responsible for a large percentage of those mistakes.

There are three levels of skills:

1. Beginner. These people know nothing of code, they create a site in an HTML editor because they cannot create one any other way. Any attempt to edit code by hand will potentially cause more problems than it solves.

2. Intermediate. They understand code, can hand edit it to improve or alter some kinds of code, but do not hand write it, and SHOULD not. As much as possible, they should either start with an existing template and customize it, or, use a WYSIWYG editor to create the site code, then only make necessary alterations by hand.

3. Expert. This is someone who understands code so well they can write it from scratch. In this case, they should STILL start with an editor – why? Because it is, frankly, faster to use a WYSIWYG editor, and then tweak it, than it is to write it from scratch. This is more fair to the client who is paying for it. It is also more accurate. Editors are by nature more accurate, and less likely to make typo mistakes. A good one will consistently produce good code 90% of the time, with consistently known issues with the other 10%. A smart coder can easily improve that 10% in less time than it takes to write the other 90%.

It simply is not true that hand coding is superior. In most cases, it is a complete waste of time. It is a myth in itself too, because many people who are touting hand coding as the ultimate skill are using some kind of software to do half of the job anyway.

The key for most designers is to choose a good WYSIWYG editor, and then learn to use it well. Good tools IMPROVE the quality of work, they don’t compromise it, and there is no shame in depending on good tools. It is, in fact, smart strategy.

The myth that hand coding is somehow better than software coded pages is perpetuated by snobs who want to belittle those who don’t have a highly specialized understanding of code.

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