Are coders an endangered species?

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.

Build a Website — Squarespace


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.

Breezi - The World's First Design Remix Engine

Adobe Muse

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.

Download Adobe Muse CC and create a website | Adobe Muse CC


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.

Virb › Build your own website


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.

Free Website Builder | Create a Free Website | WIX


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.

Stay ultra-creative

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.

  • sergiunaslau

    it’s just a part of the competition, nothing more. they just offer the same service under the form a product ( the market can quantify ) they know how to market themselves. when you will learn to introduce yourself as a solution provider, you will have nothing to worry.

  • Nicholas Katsambiris

    Yeah, Its easy enough for a business to sign up to wix and put together a website in 2 days. Its another thing to market the website via seo optimisation, email marketing, PPC and PPI social media integration. The website is definitely the cake, but the cake isn’t complete without the icing. ;)

  • Brett

    They not endangered, there are just too many designers out there convincing themselves and others that they are also developers because they know a little code. Once every one figures out the hard way that function over form is the priority, we will see all of these template sites that don’t function corrrectly, don’t pass W3C requirements and are not secure, go to the wayside. Clients are already demanding “developers” not “designers” for their website projects.

    People in and out of the online media industry need to realize the following:
    1. A journalism degree doesn’ty make you a marketing specialist, it make you a writer.
    2. A designer who knows a little bit of code is not a developer. Devlopers can be designers, designers cannot be developers.
    3. Social media being necessary for your business is one of the biggst hoaxes in the media industry. Likes and Plus One’s are not a conversion and rarely lead to conversions for most businesses.

    I’m sorry, but you couldn’t be further from the truth on this one. All of the software you mentioned above will not be around in 5 years, just wait and see.

    • Isis Marques

      Hi, Brett! I completely agree with you except for one point: “Developers can be designers, designers cannot be developers”. Exactly as you said, just changing words: because developers that know just a bit of design are not designers.

      Being a designer requires as much as study and teory as coding. As long that code is primarely the ability of understand and write in a language, I actually think that it will be more accessible to designers to learn how to code, thanks to the developers. Easy ways to build a site don’t replace a programmer, exactly as a programmer that just know visual assets from the last trends (not from deep art history + usability + design studies) is not a designer. =)

      • modul0

        I completly second that. I think that it can go either way. As a developer/designer and a designer/developer. Being a developer requires certain technical skills, and being a designer requires certain knowledge. And they both require practice on the craft.

    • j_rob

      Sorry Brett I disagree!
      You’re a Developer I take it?

      Why can’t a designer be a developer too? I know plenty of developers that cannot design a good looking responsive html5 site. But I also know designers that are fluent in php, javascript and jQuery, and are at ease with SQL etc.

      Designers and Developers work great together and I believe they’ll continue to do so.

      Those who use website builders like WIX tend to be the people who would never of paid a designer or developer to create a website in the first place! They want it all free, including their hosting, and they’re happy with the result.

      I personally believe that there will always be clients for designers and developers, and if you can’t beat them, join them! Why not develop a better, W3C compliant, secure website builder?

    • Huckerton

      I get super tired of hearing “designers can’t be this, but developers can be that.” What won’t be around in 5 years is that mentality. Petty territorial pissings. Developers getting defensive about their “code” and designers latching to their WYSIWYG tools for dear life, feeding the industry that creates them.

      Younger professionals who are just entering the space won’t know or care that there was ever a difference.

      Can a designer learn to implement scalable ecommerce IT platforms? Yes. Can a developer learn the nuances of typography? Yep. What WILL be around in 5 years are the dizzying numbers of pragmatic tools and solutions for every given level of service.

      Find a market, choose your tools, assemble your team, and get on with it.

      • Kendra Gaines

        I think you got it!

    • Dan Smith

      I disagree. I am a designer turned developer. I feel like it can be done but it requires a special breed of person to be able to really design (I have a background in graphic design) and be a developer (I hand code css, html and javascript). Most people are either one or the other though.

    • Kendra Gaines

      Hey Brett,

      Thanks for your reply! I think the topic of this article was moreso about could this actually happen rather than it is happening. As I see everyone seems to disagree with you about designers being unable to be developers, perhaps you can also understand how one may come to such a conclusion.

      We design and develop for clients. Clients have budgets. Budgets can be too small for a great designer and developer, so what are the alternatives? And if the alternatives are GREAT, will these alternatives take over…could they?

      I think we have a lot more to see. I think in 5 years, many of these sites will be on steroids. I think in 5 years designers and developers could possibly be fighting for their jobs even more. That’s just how it goes.

    • TheAL

      “Devlopers can be designers, designers cannot be developers.”

      I’ve been doing this for over a decade, both as a freelancer and for studios/agencies/corps/startups, and I can say from experience that this is completely untrue. I sense a programmer’s ego. I say that as an educated coder who knows plenty of intelligent designers, most of whom are a lot smarter than many of the coders I’ve met.

  • Akif Top

    Very true words indeed Kendra, I am happy to see that people out there are writing about this stuff. I myself started with HTML and CSS back in 1997 when it still was all “hand made”. Even though I am designer I can imagine the hardening competition for the developers in the future in a similar way as to us designers. But as you point out – the key has to be the creativity as always, maybe there are still a lot to dig in with the human curiosity. Thanks for the nice article!

  • S_McGhee

    Congrats on your new venture to learn coding! This is a very well written article that brings up a few good points. As a coder, I do agree with you and sergiunaslau that we must stay ultra creative in the solutions that we offer to our clients. The fact that there is always something new to learn keeps me up to date, makes me flexible, and reminds me why I love the graphic design field so much….Thanks for sharing.

  • Razvan

    Don`t talk without knowing the full picture. A good website cannot be developed using “automated” tools. Those will just bloat your code with unnecessary lines and will never give you full cross-browser compatibility.

    I work as a FE-dev and as a designer, and I encourage you to try and learn more about coding before making statements like this one.

    • Kendra Gaines

      That’s not the point. The focus of this article is lower-budget clients. They don’t care about unnecessary lines of code. And many of these editors are offering cross-browser compatibility at least on the major browsers.

      So when they see these things in comparison to your prices, then you’re in direct competition, right? That’s what I know. Nice lines of code, seeing websites in Opera, Explorer 6, etc are irrelevant to low budget clients.

      And when these things GROW and offer white label services, and start to accommodate even more features and offer discounts to business and corporations, it won’t even matter. I understand people aren’t threatened now but should we be?

  • bealzebubba

    I don’t think coding is a dying art any more than design is. Dreamweaver is great with their tools, but most heavy coders I know say it spits out crappy code so coding by hand is the smarter way to go. I liken it to designers who used the AI trace tool to create vector portraits v. designers who take the time to hand trace a portrait.

    On another note, I would have liked to have seen more info as an argument against using the above named services/tools. Independent designers are bound to find a potential client who says “why would I pay that kind of money when I can get a site through_____ for so much less”. We know the difference, but we need to be able to break it down for the small business owners who aren’t familiar with the terms and the pros & cons.

  • Rakel

    I tried Muse out for low-budget work, but in the end, I didn’t care for it. There was no CSS/HTML editor override, which I think is absolutely necessary to make it work for most people. There were just a few little things I couldn’t do in the program that I could do with at least some custom CSS. In the end, I think it’s OK for something really basic but as a professional design tool it’s limited.

    • Isis Marques

      Hi, Rakel! I don’t know if you already tried the latest version, they improved a lot. Of course is not a beautiful, clean and 100% W3C/acessibility conformed, but it’s ok. Specially if you use in early development, as a usability test tool! =)

      • Rakel

        I’ll check it out! I do like the idea of using it as a quick prototype-wireframing tool.

  • Alexander Ljungström

    Hell no! The ability to use pixel-perfect code lines combined with great front end techniques like jQuery, MooTools etc will never be replaced. Designers are just lazy! :-P

  • Paul

    I thought about the same thing when developing on some CMS’s like Drupal if all you have to build is a simple site, you could end up doing hardly any coding and just style it.

  • Andrew Hersh

    5/10 Adwords quality scores… 5/10 Adwords quality scores everywhere…

  • rwdrwdrwd

    Part of being a developer means constantly learning and adapting, 15 years ago I was building html with tables and spacer gifs, 13 was generating html via xml and xsl as well as serving dynamic data from csv parsing, 10 was getting to grips with php and mySQL and building custom cms, 8 was actionscript, 6 was getting deep into jquery, mootools, 4 was object oriented Javascript understanding design patterns and automated tests, 2 was beginning mvc on the client side, Bit of ruby etc.

    All decisions incorporated recognition of a lack of tools and increasing steady work in that area. Technology moves fast and part of the job is analysing where tooling lacks and demand will be and skilling up – each language you learn makes understanding others easier. I don’t demand will change, but the skills in demand will – the risk to the individual dev is finding your skillset dated (I wouldn’t like to be a monolingual actionscript dev now).

    One top tip to guarantee skilling up – don’t take comfortable perm jobs. Contract, freelance or at least strive to maintain an awareness of what’s in demand in the contract market.

  • Facebook User

    most clients learn the hard way – ready made sites on large site farms rarely draw enough targeted converting traffic. budgets and naivete will always form the natural progression to higher quality websites…..very few new business sites make it past the second stage.

  • nk

    If all you need is a page, that shows images and headlines, wysiwyg may be a solution. Nearly everything beyond this task fails rapidly in editors or publishing software. Even a floated image in Text needs much more than you see in your rich text editor. What about alt-tags? margins? baseline layout? alternative image resolution for different devices? styles description text, below, above. semantics? meta descriptions (author, copyright, relationship to other resources)? what about page wide interactions (assemble all images as an popping up gallery…). rich text editors support the minimum of widly-used content standards. And not even semantic. Customers use to “paint” their content like they did in word without formatting templates before. You get bloated code, just because the customer tries to get a specific result without knowing how markup works. And it gets worse, if somone tries to reproduce a modern layout element.

  • craigvn

    People have been saying developers are endangered for 50 years, COBOL was actually designed to make it possible for managers and business people to write code. It never happened. While the tools are enhanced to make development easier the user expectations grow at the same pace. Building websites with the tools you mention is probably 1% of what developers do.

  • Neal Cabage

    Here’s an article I recently wrote on commoditization of technology – specifically addressing this point.

  • IanFarb

    I think certain people enjoy dealing with someone face to face on a more personal level rather than through an online service.

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