Over the past few days, I have taken a crash course in coding and am actually learning how to do it. Now, don’t everyone applaud me — I’ve always been extremely transparent and forthright in my lack of knowledge and desire to code.
Now, as I’m actually starting to put things together, I’m wondering how much my desire not to learn HTML and CSS wasn’t my fault.
Well, I blame coders. Coders and the bout of companies who claim to be able to create perfect websites simply by dragging and dropping elements on a blank page. In both cases, I can rely on someone else, they enable me to avoid learning.
Alright, maybe I can’t say I blame them, they’re earning a living and we’ve all got bills to pay. There was a time when drag and drop apps were a joke, but that’s not the case anymore. The longer we’ve been relying on them, the more they’ve improved. We can offer basic, to intermediate sites to clients all without ever learning a single line of code. Which leads me to question if there’s any future for coders.
Sure, high-end development is necessary. Someone has to build the drag and drop tools for a start. But what about your average front-end developer, coding HTML and CSS; could they be on the brink of extinction?
An endangered species
I always thought sites like Wix were so cool. As a matter of fact, I still believe they are, however while they tend to provide a very real solution they are also stepping on some toes that happen to be in an already competitive field. To the naked client eye, coughing up a couple bucks a month may seem better than a couple hundred or thousand up front.
Of course, coders aren’t the only ones to suffer this. The design community is regularly up in arms because of a different kind of competition. There were amateurs and really poor designers who began to severely decrease their prices for design work. They undercut and undermined the work that many designers pride themselves on. I’m talking, $50 for a logo and $10 for business card type deal. I actually saw someone advertising logo design services for $5 the other day. There were people out there who would design an entire website for pennies, compared to what I would charge.
The issue is rampant. Because of this, businesses and clients didn’t value designers as much as they should. They figured they knew how much a skill set was worth, as well is how much time a job should take. They had no concept of good design and what the value of that design was, thanks to price-based competition. And it really makes pricing and getting work hard.
The main offenders
SquareSpace is one of the heaviest hitters when it comes to to website builders. SquareSpace can almost do anything. The developers are always adding plugins and such to make it better and easier to use for their consumers. They know what they want their product and brand to be and are doing whatever they can to make it so.
I’ve used Breezi a couple of times and honestly, I don’t have many bad things to say about it. It’s very powerful and my only complaint was that it’s not available as a script I can put on any web host, much like WordPress. Breezi differentiates itself by adding tons of apps and plugins so that you can do whatever you need with whatever website you have. It has its own content management system, form database, and so much more.
And then Adobe decided it wasn’t enough to have many of these website builders online. Nope. They went and created a piece of software that allows designers to create websites much like print designers mock up magazine spreads. Adobe Muse hasn’t caught on quite as much as I think it could — I wonder if that has to do with poor promotion or poor perception? Either way, if Dreamweaver is too complicated for you, Muse is the step down without feeling cheap like other WYISWG applications one can download.
This website builder isn’t much different than the others. It’s pretty powerful with a solid blog and management system. They differ by competing (or trying to) on price and features. Most of their templates and themes (like most others) are responsive and Virb includes almost unlimited everything on a cloud. There are a lot of great websites coming from Virb, especially nice portfolios from designers.
Wix has been around for a very long time. In the era where the Internet was about flashiness and pizzazz and glitter backgrounds, Wix was doing something new because they built Flash websites. Now, not so much, but they’re still making fair-looking websites for those of us who aren’t technical. Wix is geared more towards the regular consumer — someone not necessarily into design or development, but they were easily the website builder to take notes from.
What can developers do?
Web designers have kept themselves relevant by continually pushing the envelope. The question is, how can developers do the same? It may seem like a silly question, after all, we’re talking about competing with computers and robots. But I believe, the threat could become extremely real if these types of editors become prevalent and more exposed.
The thing about most of these editors is their templates and themes are extremely cookie-cutter templates seen on 75% of the websites online today. It makes sense for such a general product, but to gain the upper hand, you should make sure you’re thinking as creatively as possible.
By being creative, I mean experiment with different types of layouts and user interfaces. You know what’s popular and trendy at the moment, but think about how you could make that your own. Having the individual creative flair draws people to you and allows you to have a leg up on any competition, whether human or electronic.
Learn something new
It seems like as time passes and technology increases, designers and creators must learn a bunch of new techniques to make themselves more attractive. Something gets old and it’s our job to know how to do the next big thing.
If you are an designer, learn photography. If you’re photographer, learn video. If you’re a coder, you’ll probably want to learn a programming language. Or you want to know what cool and neat tricks you can do with HTML5 and CSS3. You may want to learn how to build apps. Whatever you do, just make sure you can leverage it as extra value to a potential client.
Use it to your advantage
Every so often, you’ll get a client whose budget isn’t exactly one you’d accept. They might be friends or family or maybe even a nonprofit in your community. As easy as it is to hate sites like Breezi, don’t be so quick to push them to the side.
Clients are just paying you because they want your dope skills, but also because they don’t have the time to learn it or do it themselves. You may do yourself some good by learning how to use these apps to make cheaper alternatives for smaller budgets. Some apps come white label and some don’t, but either way there may be a way to use these types of new or, competitive technologies to your advantage.
We’ve gotten over this type of thing before. The web design/development community is always searching for solutions and the next big thing after the next big thing. And I believe as technology furthers for what we can’t do, it will continue to further for what we can do as well. Is nothing like a little dose of what’s next to get your skill set prepared for the future.
Do you think your job is threatened by WYSIWYG editors? Have you used any of these services on a project? Let us know in the comments.