Stuck in first gear

Dec 2, 2022

Often web designers think, or suggest, that there is a path that goes from beginner=non-coder to advanced=coder. That’s not the case. It’s a myth.

Web designers who code have what they perceive to be a precious skill, and try to defend it and protect it, often very vocally. That’s understandable. But it doesn’t make it true.

The Sparkle user interface appears simple, that’s by design. You wouldn’t say a Ferrari is for beginners because you start the engine by pushing a button instead of turning a hand crank.

In a way this is repeating the concept we expressed in a 2015 post: HTML and CSS are holding the web back.

But more than just HTML and CSS, it’s the mentality that only a coded website is professional that is extremely toxic, misleading and holding the web back.

People who are more skilled at creating great designs are going to be less proficient with the symbolic nature and detail oriented busywork of code, while detail-oriented people who can focus on coding are the more analytical types, who are less likely to contribute great design ideas to the web. In fact, when’s the last time you have seen a website built without a stellar budget that was visually distinctive?

But great design isn’t the only thing the web is missing out on.

Adding code to your site in 2022 is increasingly problematic, the bar for minimal performance has never been higher. The farther away you are from the analytical type, the more likely it is you don’t fully understand the implications of the added code.

While many people enjoy the thrill and the challenge of shaping their creation with a chisel, web coding is not quite wood carving, and the page will end up showing up incorrectly on some browser, load slowly, have accessibility, privacy or security issues, or all of the above.

Yes it’s possible to iterate and fix the coding issues, but that makes it an artisanal endeavour, not unlike painting, cooking or crafting a necklace. But coding a website is about what’s technically correct, it’s engineering, not artisanship.

At the same time, when all your focus is on code and technical aspects of a page, when do you start thinking of everything else the website needs? The site objectives and user needs, the content requirements, the information architecture and interaction design, information and navigation design and finally visual design. More time spent on code means less time spent on everything else. Again a net loss for the web.

Finally, all this happens in the context of Wordpress templates being the primary website delivery medium on the web. While the templates are designed to be pretty, they ultimately conform to the same structure, and Wordpress is a hot mess. Nothing new and interesting coming from there.

Ultimately, coding your website, and using a tool that isn’t fully visual, is like being stuck in first gear forever.

That’s why we think a visual tool is, for most people, vastly superior to manually coded websites, or even sites built with a semi visual tool that leaves out so many critical details.

Sparkle doesn’t do everything, and the fix is to create more visual tools to allow more people to create their professional site, rather than arbitrarily restrict who will be defined as professional.

One day we’ll look back on the this time as the dark ages, when people still polluted the air they breathe, and thought fiddling with numbers to change a layout was a good idea.

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