Web Design : Working Faster and Smarter

To hand-code HTML means to type out the code underlying web pages. Now, I have to admit that I love hand-coding HTML. Hand-coding (typing out) gives you complete control over the code and the web page. It also gives a certain satisfaction.

Loved it. Happy as a clam. Happily hand-coded for years. Would never go back to a graphical website authoring program.

Then, one night as I was hand-coding late into the wee hours — making yet another change to a website design layout — the thought struck me: was there a way to work faster and smarter?

The Problem(s)

Every time I needed to make a site-wide change (to all the pages), I was stuck with Search & Replace. Not a big deal ... except that, for instance, if the website had multiple subfolders, at least some of the menu links would be different for each subfolder. This meant a number of Search/Replaces.

Multiply that by the number of times during the development of a website that a menu or some other site-wide element changes, or pages move around. That being the case, how often do you want to hear this from a client: "Diane, could you just ..."?

I realized that my favored method of building websites was getting in the way of just plain creativity.

I also write a fair amount of ad copy for clients. While I can certainly keep track of what I'm writing and how I'm coding it, there's a difference when you're staring at a page of code. I began to miss seeing a graphical representation of the ad copy I was writing.

What if the text were larger, or bluer, or wrapping around an image? I mean, this stuff has to go POW! But no, I was staring at lines and lines and lines of same-size text with HTML code plunked in here and there. Okay, some of it was color coded. But it just wasn't the same thing.

I realized I had begun to feel that I was "working blind".

You can design websites faster and smarter

With all due respect to the "you must only hand-code HTML" purist crowd, there comes a time for some of us when we must look at the realities of the situation: even the fastest hand-coder runs into the endless Search & Replace, or endless typing. With all due respect, it is not everyone's goal in life to type endlessly. Some of us are also designers or marketers, or what-have-you. Still, I knew of no workable solution. Until I looked.

Well, I was told, in the years since I started hand-coding websites, WYSIWYG web authoring programs had improved. I was doubtful and looked upon this idea with skepticism. Until I tried one.

Change an image file name and the pages update automatically. Change a design layout and the entire website updates. Hmm. Write ad copy while looking at a display that looked just like a browser. Switch back and forth from WYSIWYG to HTML code. Play with the settings and you can get solid, clean HTML code. Okay, sold.

Truthfully, this has saved our web design studio time. Websites can be designed and produced faster. And no more having to schedule time for multiple design changes; these are taken care of immediately.

The big surprise was that, frankly, our clients couldn't have cared less whether I hand-coded or pushed a button that would produce a website in one second. I know because I asked. Their interest lies in websites that look professional, expand their reach and result in income. How I achieve that is simply not of interest to them.

There are two or three such WYSIWYG programs on the market. Some turn out better code than others, but mostly it's a matter of preference. I happen to like Macromedia Dreamweaver.

So, that's my solution to the "working smarter and faster" question. Sure, I could hand-code, but then I have to pass that extra time and effort on to clients in the form of extra cost.

Diane Vigil founded DianeV Web Design Studio, has served as a consultant to numerous companies, as a moderator and administrator of the JimWorld SearchEngineForums and Cre8asiteforums, on the Site-Report Experts Panel — and has designed and built numerous websites since 1997.

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