Is WYSIWYG the right tool for a multi-channel world?

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) refers to HTML editors that provide a Graphical User Interface (GUI) along with a set of tools that help you to create and upload web pages easily. It is intended to give you an exact look and feel of how your document will appear once it is uploaded to the web. In other words, not only do choose the web page content, you also get to decide exactly how it appears. The GUI gives you the flexibility to pick the font, choose the layout, add images, graphics, tables, hyperlinks etc. All the user needs to do is click on the chosen operation, and the editor will generate the HTML code for it. Kompozer, Amaya and Blue Griffon are some of the popular open source WYSIWYG editors, whereas Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web are some of the closed source ones.

WYSIWYG editors offer certain advantages and, as with everything else, certain disadvantages too. Let’s take a closer look at them.

What are the advantages of using WYSIWYG editors?

Tech know-how not needed

You don’t have to feel inadequate just because you don’t speak HTML! WYSIWYG editors make it possible for people who do not know HTML to put up great content on the web, and control the look and feel too. From personal to business websites, now every man and his dog can put up a decent web-page!!

Get your work done quickly

WYSIWYG editors, like any other tools, serve to make your work easier and quicker. Through simple clicks, you can change your font, design graphics, images; add text to your images, etc. It lets you create or edit web content quickly, with limited manual effort.

Cost effective

There are some good WYSIWYG editors that are free. Yet, if you decide to purchase one, it is a one-time investment and they are perfect for an individual or small business website where you cannot afford the cost of hiring an external party to design and maintain your website.

Do more with the HTML code viewer

It is incorrect to assume that WYSIWYG editors are popular only with those who do not know HTML. Most editors have an HTML code viewer so that users who have some knowledge of HTML can further tweak things around, as per their preference. This gives more flexibility to the user to achieve more with a quicker turnaround time. Most of them also provide HTML5 and CSS support, which help in creating advanced websites.

User in control

WYSIWYG editors give visual representation of what the actual website will look like, as they are working on it. This gives more control to the user to manage the aesthetic appeal of the website.

What are the disadvantages of using WYSIWYG editors?

Superfluous code

The auto-generated HTML in these editors contains superfluous code, resulting in bulky, difficult to debug HTML. This bulky HTML then makes the page slow and difficult to load, unless the excess code is cleaned up. This cleaning is not easy for someone with no knowledge of HTML, and if left as such, will drive away traffic and create a negative user experience.

Lacks search engine friendliness

Due to superfluous coding, search engines need to skim through a lot of code before they can trace the main content of the page. Also, they do not contain code that optimizes the website for search engines. SEO, obviously, is crucial to the website’s success.

Incompatible pages

Pages generated by editors are often editor specific, and might not be recognized in another editor. They also allow the user to create browser specific HTML tags, which might not work on other browsers. Further, such tags do not conform to HTML standards, and such pages might not always be consistent with the existing website pages.

Incorrect and invalid code

WYSIWYG editors often generate incorrect, badly formed or non-standard code. This might cause unexpected errors when the page loads.

Confusing interface

Some of the editors try to pack in a lot of features and options into the GUI through various tools, menus, features and controls. This sometimes makes it difficult for a user to learn the tool, and easily navigate through it. Even a professional web designer will have to spend some time learning the tool before being able to use it intelligently.

Discourages coding

Often WYSIWYG is blamed for discouraging the habit of coding in young programmers. Since most of the tasks can be accomplished through the editors, it is sufficient to have a working knowledge of HTML to create good websites.

Limited functionality

In spite of providing a broad range of functionalities, WYSIWYG editors can only help you design the look and content of the website. In order to have a perfectly positive user experience, you need to have a seasoned HTML programmer.

Inconsistent design

With the possibility of the look and feel of each web page being tinkered with, it’s possible that the webpages may not be in tune with each other. This leads to dilution of the brand’s design messaging. And when the pages are further seen across multiple channels, it could create multiple brand identities.

So, what are the alternatives to WYSIWYG editors?

Web content management systems (CMS) tools like Ektron, WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are increasingly becoming popular in web design. CMS tools help to configure the website, upload content, dynamically generate pages and in short, create and maintain a website that is modern and consistent. While, WYSIWYG editors might continue to be popular with the average user for its comparative simplicity and ease of use, big brands should avoid it. Brand consistency on every page, across every channel is a must, and for this one reason, WYSIWYG editors are best avoided.

Author : Rashmi Krishnan Date : 12 Dec 2014