I ran across this blog post that disparages WYSIWYG web tools generally, and SiteGrinder specifically. I replied in the comments, but apparently my comment has not been approved. I wouldn’t mind as much if the person writing the post had actually tried SiteGrinder and wrote from experience, but sadly, and typically, that was not the case. He lists several rookie mistakes and shortcomings that he presumes it makes…except it doesn’t actually make those mistakes.
It is frustrating. We encounter this sort of prejudice every day. Like too many he makes the blanket assumption that a WYSIWYG tool that generates code must, a priori, produce worse code than coding by hand. Many people seem to take this as fact. But it isn’t. It isn’t a fair, specific, or tested, comparison at all. What tool and what coder? For what design? He has taken the liberty to name a tool (SiteGrinder) but which programmer exactly is it competing against? Him? Because while SiteGrinder may not be the best of the best of the best, it definitely produces better code that a lot of people including many so-called professional developers. Also, it is safe to say that for some designs that are squarely within the set of things that SiteGrinder does that when it is used properly, it will actually be difficult for a hand coder to do as good of a job. And certainly impossible to convert that Photoshop design in the same amount of time.
I’m not saying that SiteGrinder is better than any given person coding by hand on any given design. Certainly not. That would be the same mistake the author of the article makes in the reverse direction. But show me the design, show me the coder and then we’ll talk.
I am so tired of uninformed yahoos spouting off the line that “all wysiwyg tools produce bad code” without them actually having tested them. When I argue about this I can’t argue for or against SiteGrinder, which actually exists, but instead have to argue against the imaginary tool said yahoo creates in their mind. Fortunately for our users we have more imagination and are more resourceful than our detractors.
For example, the aforementioned author mentioned “image slice model”, “lack of downloadable web fonts”, and not using CSS3 equivalents (like CSS3 round corners and shadows). He mentions these because, presumably, if he made an automatic Photoshop web tool those are the limitations his tool would have. But our tool wasn’t written by him. He was wrong on all three counts when it comes to SiteGrinder. Had he downloaded and tried it he might know that. He probably also overlooked the heavy interactivity like smooth scrolling links, accordions, animations, plus the integration with Google Docs, and more. There are definitely improvements that can be made, but the team is working on them. Continuing the advance of good SEO, semantic markup, responsive design and mobile support are all priorities.
What is strange is that these supposed programmers that are so hasty to condemn WYSIWYG tools don’t actually seem to know what a computer is capable of. This author specifically illustrates the superiority of hand coding by pointing to the the yslow.org tool and its best practices list. But that list is just a list of optimizations. He may not realize it, but as a programmer I realize immediately that he has sunk his own argument. That list of cold measurable optimizations is exactly the sort of thing that computers are much better at figuring out than humans. Got to pack some spheres into a space or figure out the shortest route for a traveling salesman? Yes, those are tricky problems, even for a computer, but if for any non-trivial set of spheres or cities if you think you are going to figure it out better than a computer you are a fool. Do not kid yourself about this. If that list were a high enough priority then I guarantee that Muse or SiteGrinder could be made to always generate websites that would outperform any hand-coded site of the same design and same design parameters when measured against that yslow.org table. (Note the stress on the two designs being the same, apples vs apples. And I mean, obviously, designs that are within reach of these programs. No one is writing Facebook with SiteGrinder)
Ultimately, the only thing left standing is the benign observation that SiteGrinder and tools like it are used to make brochure-ware sites and the groundbreaking new stuff on the web won’t come from there. No argument from me there (except SG sites are more interactive than he is imagining/portraying). But, so what? Not every site is Facebook. To me, personally, it is upsetting that anyone should think that something as simple as a basic web site must be hand coded. Why? I have heard no explanation. Why shouldn’t someone with good design skills be able to make a straightforward site without having to learn to code? And where are all these coders that don’t have anything better to do with their time? Trust me, I’m a coder and you couldn’t pay me to spend my time redoing by hand in code what someone else has already done in Photoshop. Now that is a waste of resources.