Learning How To Code From Scratch Vs Using Drag Drop Editors

February 07, 2017

Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code

There are now heaps of drag-and-drop web development platforms out there, all selling the premise you can build an entire website, without needing to understand a line of code.

Evolving web technologies have seen the proliferation of WYSIWYG web editors, otherwise known as drag-and-drop editors. Services such as Squarespace, Wix, and Webflow all allow you to put websites together of varying complexities like bricks of Lego, without typing a single line of code.

Is it still worth learning how to code with so many 'easier' options out there?

There are now heaps of drag-and-drop web development platforms out there, all selling the premise you can build an entire website, without needing to understand a line of code.

Evolving web technologies have seen the proliferation of WYSIWYG web editors, otherwise known as drag-and-drop editors. Services such as Squarespace, Wix, and Webflow all allow you to put websites together of varying complexities like bricks of Lego, without typing a single line of code.

Modern WYSIWYG platforms often also come with built-in Content Management Systems, and some are compatible with e-commerce platforms. Chuck in relatively straightforward pricing, and they become attractive alternatives to building a site from scratch.

So if these platforms are so versatile and easy, why would you need to learn to code from scratch?

Of course, it should be noted we’re from a coding bootcamp where we teach you how to code from scratch! There are always pros-and-cons to both sides, so to give you a look at the full-picture, we’ll go through both sides of the argument. 

There are a few good reasons why you should still learn coding ‘the old fashioned way,’ even if you use a drag-and-drop editor. Here are 5 reasons why you should do so!

 

1. You don’t paint yourself into a corner


Drag-and-drop editors come in really shiny packaging. With slick websites telling you all the benefits you’ll receive, it’s easy to get sucked in.
However, everyone’s needs are different, and often you’ll build 90% of your project, only to realise your platform can’t do the rest of what you need. Whether it’s slightly more complex analytics implementation, interactive elements, e-commerce functions or more, there’s a very high chance you’ll come across something you won’t be able to do because the developer of the tool hadn’t built it in.

 

2. Messy Code


Even the best WYSIWYG platforms produce less-than-optimal code. While you might never see this code (as it’s not designed to be), it still does affect the overall performance of your website.
Messy or suboptimal code often leads to slower website load times, which is both bad for user experiences and SEO.
Also, if all goes well, there will come a time you will need to grow your website along with your business. When you give this code to a web developer to build on, or if you decide to work on it yourself, you’ll have a much harder time trying to sort through lumps of code
Think of it like having a house built on shaky foundations. While you might be able to keep the house nice, shiny and clean on the outside, the foundations hidden away at the bottom might not provide the right support. Don’t forget as well, after you build a house, it’s impossible to come back to fix the foundations.

 

3. You are paying to have less control


While monthly memberships might seem worth it compared to the challenge of learning how to code, you are often paying quite a bit of money to have relatively little control over what you want to create.

Platforms often even lock you into their own hosting solutions, resulting in higher costs than you’d expect. Add in extra costs for content management systems for blogging, and suddenly, you’re paying more a month than you might in a year with your own hosting solutions.

What you’re paying for is often the convenience of using templated solutions. When you do want to break the mold, however, it can often be exceedingly hard to migrate away.

4. Understanding code allows you to fix things


Technology has this uncanny habit of breaking on us. So it’s inevitable something will happen on these platforms we won’t quite understand.
Understanding how to think like a web developer will allow us to debug problems easier, and understand where the limitations are.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for web developers to use these platforms now and then - the speed of implementation is often hard to neglect. However, understanding code allows us to debug the problems much faster without having the go forum trawling.

5. It’s just a great skill to have


Whether you’re looking to upskill, or you want to become a full-blown web developer, learning how to code is a great skill to have.

If you’re looking to become a developer, learning how to build a website from scratch is an absolute necessity; it’s not possible to purely rely on WYSIWYG platforms your entire career. Learning code will also allow you to grow much faster as a developer; you’ll learn faster, do cooler things, and not fear limits.

If you’re hoping to build your own business or become a more valuable, versatile employee, understanding code can open up a lot more doorways. It’s one of the most valuable skills to have, especially since so many industries face disruption and digitisation.

These are 5 reasons why you should learn how to code from scratch, rather than using a drag-and-drop editor. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in editors at all - in fact, there are people who will benefit greatly from using one of these tools. 

Here are 3 reasons why a drag-and-drop editor might suit you better than learning how to code! 

1. Where speed is of the essence

There’s no doubt about it - drag & drop editors are simply much, much faster than coding a website from scratch. Even if you use HTML & CSS frameworks to get you off the ground faster, the WYSIWYG workflow is simply much quicker. This means you can go from concept to fully-fledged website within just a few hours. 

Sometimes, you just need to get things off the ground fast. For example, say you’re a startup needing a proof-of-concept. In this instance, getting customer feedback is the most important thing for you, so getting something up quick-and-dirty, rather than spending hours meticulously coding a site makes the most amount of sense. This proof-of-concept is going to shift rapidly, so you need something you can change at a whim. 

2. You’re doing a lot of A/B testing

A/B testing is a simple concept, but often not easy to without the right tools. 

In fact, most of the most widely used A/B testing tools, such as Optimizely, VWO and Hubspot use a drag-and-drop mechanism to make variations of your website; you simply put a script of code into your website, and then use one of these platforms to make changes to your website to test. 

There are also many landing page building and testing platforms such as Instapage and Unbounce, which allow you to quickly build a one-page you can then A/B test. These platforms all use a WYSIWYG editor. 

These editors are still often beholden to problems that other drag-and-drop editors have, namely outputting messy code. However, for the companies who are constantly testing, the ease-of-use and testing accuracy of these tools far outweigh any cons. 

3. You’re not looking to scale

Maybe you’re running a side-hustle you don’t want to turn full-time, or you’re building a website for your mom’s shop, or you just need something really simple, quick, and easy. 

There are many businesses out there that don’t scale because they’re not meant to - and that’s OK. When continual growth, change and evolution aren’t part of the plans, then that’s where drag-and-drop editors definitely make the most amount of sense. That means concerns like templated designs, or getting locked in, or making complex changes, aren’t a problem. 

At the end of the day, it’s about staying true to yourself, and doing what’s best for you and your business. If all you really want to do is build a landing page that provides people with a phone number, it’s not really worth learning how to code to do so. 


So those are 5 reasons why you should learn how to code, as opposed to using a WYSIWYG platform such as Wix or Squarespace!

Do keep in mind, however - it’s not always a question of either-or. These platforms have their advantages. Even and seasoned developers will sometimes use them time-to-time for simple projects.  Marrying both sides together can help you work faster and better. Learning how to code will often improve your experiences with these platforms, helping you (and your website) become more versatile, and less restricted.


Written by: Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code