Forget the WYSIWYG

What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) is not always all its cracked up to be. The idea of a WYSIWYG code editor is a grand dream, but for now, just a dream. Some web site layouts may be flexible and require very little precision, but most need to stretch and skew to fit all types of displays and windows. This takes a lot of careful planning, and A LOT of trial and error. More advanced applications may not preview at all. WordPress sites, for instance, use many files to assemble a page. This style of website will appear blank or broken when previewed in a WYSIWYG.

HTML and CSS are supported and interpreted very differently by each browser (and by each code editor). Unless the site is basic HTML/CSS some times the code previews miss by a mile. While I’m not saying that these features are useless, they may hinder the learning process for a young designer. There are a few major reasons to avoid and disable these features in your code editor.

The first reason to avoid WYSIWYG features is the fact that they only an estimate what a browser will display. Depending on your code, these estimations may be off by a lot.

The second reason is the way that WYSIWYG editors deal with code. These editors, not properly used, can make a mess. Cutting and pasting paragraphs, highlighting and styling of text, changing font colors, and generally allowing the editor to build inline styles will result in very poorly formatted code.

The last and most important reason is very simple; to build web sites you have to learn to read the code. If it is hiding behind a WYSIWYG preview, your missing out on a lot. Being able to read and write basic HTML/CSS is absolutely critical. If you don’t learn to read and write code you will essentially be limited to what your software is capable of. I made this mistake early on and it cost me a lot of time.

Join the discussion

Email addresses will not be published.
Comments will not be displayed until approved by an admin


  1. Comment by Jeffrey Smith

    Kudos for the tips, and your blog really looks impressive. Exactly what word press theme are you using?