Free Web Developer software
In the early days of the internet, anyone could build a website with minimal experience or knowledge. No one really knew what constituted good web design practice and there wasn't any web design software. Today, you need extensive knowledge of HTML, CSS and several other platforms in order to find a job as a web developer or a web designer. But new web design tools help designers build websites without touching any code.
What does this mean for the web industry? Are tools like Muse and Macaw viable on a professional level? Let's look over the advantages and disadvantages that web design programs like Muse bring to the table and determine what kind of impact, if any, they will have on the future of web design.
What does code-free have to offer?
Designers are free to make whatever they can with the tools in front of them. They're only limited by their design skills, not by both design skills and programming skills. Without web design software, designers have to worry about how much work the development side will be and whether their vision is actually possible. With applications like Adobe's Muse, designers can create, test and iterate rapidly because they no longer have to worry about getting the code exactly right, or fitting within the time and labor constraints associated with hand coding.
What are the drawbacks?
The code that website builders generate is often clunky and not at all optimized. It's entirely possible for web designers to build a website with web design software and then have a web developer go through the automatically generated code and optimize it. But this is a tedious approach, and in most cases coding the website by hand would be a better option.
Web designers who rely on code-free web design software may contribute to a division between web developers and web designers. With machines cranking out code, designers won't need to understand that code or best practices – and they may think they don't need web developers. The truth is that hand coding is almost always the best option. It's more flexible and customizable. The best websites are created through collaboration between designers and developers. Until automatically generated code can match the quality of hand code, designers and developers need to work together.
Is there room for both traditional web design and automated code generation?
Many people will likely use website builders in order to avoid coding. When the automatically generated code is good enough to get the job done, then why not? However, there will always be a market for web designers who can both code and design. The bleeding-edge technology of the industry is always evolving and requires a human element to keep up. Web design software will always be a step behind the leading curve. Updates to coding language, such as new versions of HTML, would have to be standardized and incorporated into the software before you can make use of them. A website created by hand is much easier to update and keep updated.
There will always be room for both web designers and web developers, regardless of what tools come out in the future. Web designers and web developers needn't worry about software replacing them, but they should be prepared for their jobs to change as web technologies advance.
Can web design software generate good code?
Muse is an excellent tool for designers to experiment and quickly create websites. However, Muse's automatically generated code is clunky and filled with ludicrous amounts of tags. While you can certainly create a website with Muse and get it live, the code is merely functional. If you want to optimize your website or update the code to the latest standards, you'll be in for quite a headache.
Automatically generated code is often inelegant, but there is hope. Macaw is another website builder that helps designers create quality, albeit small, sites quickly. What's impressive about Macaw is a marked difference in the quality of code it generates. There are fewer tags and the code is much cleaner. Macaw uses an engine called Alchemy that takes what you design and turns it into semantic HTML and CSS. While the code it outputs isn't perfect, we'll likely see better engines in the future.
As the tools for web design get better, we will, of course, see better websites – but only if web designers and web developers keep collaborating. Web design software exists to help designers bring their ideas to the digital canvas in a quick and reliable manner. Tools such as Macaw that can generate code automatically are useful in limited situations, but we need designers and developers to work together to create full and unique websites.