The inevitability of visual website builders

by Duncan Wilcox, Sep 15, 2022

What we have seen over the years is a flattening and standardization of web design. It’s so much so it has become a meme:

To me it’s pretty clear the reason is the complexity of web standards, and the huge surface area of different technologies you need to know to walk the (very) thin line of standards, performance, mobile optimization, browser compatibility and bugs. Mobile and minimalism kind of pushed everybody in a corner with a limiting design canon.

All the necessary knowledge, the new rule of the road and the mantra I think convinced everybody that code is the only way to go. But with the market rules at work, most web shops only buy a pre-built theme that solves the technical problems, never using any of the web flexibility. Some people still built custom HTML and CSS, but the testing required for a one-shot project means it will be a very expensive proposition. This leaves beautiful bespoke designs as something only for very high end websites.

So this is the problem we set out to resolve: take care of the technical issues, take web coding off the table for as many scenarios and use cases as possible. It’s something that has happened for most other fields, as the Webflow founder aptly tweeted:

What we’re working on is that bottom-right rectangle, and it’s mind boggling that anybody would insist that’s the only way to do it.

But how far is Sparkle in the realization of this grand vision?

For some things, it’s already perfect. This is what makes Sparkle great already today for who mainly builds websites with static content.

For other things we have have a ways to go. We are very very, very aware of what Sparkle doesn’t do. And for some things you might find the best solution is a very specific wordpress plugin, which means you have to use the whole wordpress sinking ship.

But we are 100% committed to bringing everything we can to the realm of visual editing. And not in the sense some “no code” tools do it, where you might not be writing CSS directly, but their “GUI” is essentially a table of CSS properties.

So does this make Sparkle good for any use? I would say that “probably not” is the best approximation, but not because of any issue Sparkle might have, just because there is an amazing variety of needs and most of them are solved with a some custom coding here and there.

That said there’s a very long tail of people who can greatly benefit from what Sparkle has to offer today, and every Sparkle update raises the bar of what you can do, entirely visually.

We are, as always, very open to suggestions. Smaller suggestions, that might be quick to add and maybe make you more productive, or big picture suggestions, that we might take longer to add but raise the bar and give you a more capable tool long term.

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