Learning how to code from scratch vs using drag-&-drop editors
February 07, 2017
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 without having to type 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? Here are our top 5 reasons why!
1. Personalize your ENTIRE website
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 realize your platform can’t actually do what you need. Whether it’s a slightly more complex analytics implementation, interactive elements, or e-commerce functions there will be tools that the developer didn’t build into the website.
2. You won’t have to worry bout 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.
Eventually, there will come a time you will need to grow your website along with your business. Whether you give this code to a web developer to build on or you decide to work on it yourself, you’ll have a much harder (and longer) time trying to sort through lumps of unfamiliar code.
3. Consider the longterm investment
While monthly memberships might seem worth it compared to the challenge (and initial investment) 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. In the long run, this could come to be more expensive than taking a coding class.
What’s worse, platforms often lock you into their own hosting solutions, resulting in higher costs than you’d expect. Add in the 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.
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 code allows us to debug the problems much faster and understand where the limitations are.
5. You can add it to your resume
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. Coding can be one of the most valuable skills to have now that so many industries face digitization. So if you’re a developer, building your own business, or just looking to become a more valuable employee, learning to build a website from scratch is an absolute necessity.
However, this doesn’t mean we don’t believe in drag and drop editors at all! So when does it make sense to use one of these tools?
1. When 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. When 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.
Even some 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.
Beware, 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. If 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, deciding between taking the plunge into coding or sticking to WYSIWYG web editors depends on what you believe is best for you and your business.