about WYSIWYG editors / green web development



I hate WYSIWYG web editors and I never use them. Read one of my stories about Dreamweaver. The idea of this type of web editors is great but it will work properly may be after 5 or 10 years when HTML5 is the current web standard and all the web browsers are based on similar standard rendering modes (we are getting there just hold on tight). I’ve read the book “Weaving the web” by the creator of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee where he states that he wants people to be able to publish materials on the web without the need of html or any other technical knowledge. Well, I am afraid that’s not possible. Not yet.

A very funny example: one guy comes into the office and tells me: “I bought web hosting with domain name from fast hosts (everybody in the UK buys from there for some reason) and then I uploaded a document but when I open the website, I can’t see it.”… The first thing I asked was “What format is the document.” And he said “It’s an office word document” and I answered “I am afraid that’s not a web format, you will need to convert it to HTML” his answer was “Convert it to what?” And then I showed him how to use ms word to save a document as html (never, ever do this by the way) the guy took notes what to click where and and went home excited that he learned something new and he will manage to get on the web. But he came back on the next day and said to me “I saved it the way you told me and uploaded it but still cant see it..” and the next thing I asked was “Whats the name of the file you called it?” he said “A di ken” (that’s Scottish for “I don’t know”)… “I think it’s something like welcome.html” since I am a nice guy and I wanted to help him, my answer was “You will need to rename it to ‘index.html'”. The guy wrote that down and I’ve never seen him since then so I assume he managed to get it so that people can see it. This example shows that you need to be at least a little techincal in order to publish something on the web for everyone to see. Of course, there are solutions such as sitecreator and other social network like facebook, tweeter, blogger, etc but they are not what the user wants they are limiting him to what they can offer him and no matter what service is created, you will always have limits if you are not a techie-nerd like me 🙂

WYSIWYG editors are great if you simply have one empty white page without any design. But this is 21st century and such pages are only history. Here comes another problem: people who have paid money for a website want to be able to change their website themselves. There is a few solutions to this. The best option is to get your customers to learn (x)HTML/CSS but more than 99.9% of them are not technical enough to understand it and they have their own business so they can not waste time for that for these reasons this solution is not acceptable. The next good solution is to use some sort of web Content Management System (CMS) but CMSes usually have a lot of requirements and are very complex and expensive. While static html pages are just a few files sitting on a web server somewhere, a CMS is a web application where a lot of web technologies such as php/mysql etc are combined to create a website . For that reason, their development and customization is very expensive and not everyone can afford that. Another disadvantage of CMSes is that because they are programs, they have to be run by the web server, everytime someone visits your website. Most of these CMSes are complex and they communicate with some sort of database management system (such as MySQL) and they make the web server use a lot of resources, by using these resources, the server uses more energy as well. While the browser is communicating with the server, the connection is relayed through a few other servers which are part of the so called network route. In order to get to thorough this route, the data needs to go through miles of cables and a lot of switches/routers/filters. All these are using electricity power. And yes, I am one of those web developers who think green.. did you know that every time you do a Google search, the same amount of energy is wasted that is enough to biol a cattle?

Most of the web users I’ve seen, dont know how to use their browser’s address bar. They usually have some sort of different search like ask or MSN on their home page. So in MSN, they type “Google” after that they go to Google and they type the web site they are going to. That is usually something like “bbc”, “facebook” or their email “hotmail”. So instead of just typing bbc.com in their address bar, they have wasted the same amount of energy that is enought to boil three kettles. And they are not the just one or two, there’s millions of them! The problem is that people don’t know that… Someone needs to go and tell them. I think that there should be a TV campaign explaining it.

You are probably wandering what do WYSIWYG editors have to do with green IT? Well, I’ll tell you now: What you see on your screen at the moment, is a result of what your browser (the program you use to see this website) has generated (rendered). Your browser renders the source code of this page which are the instructions on what to display and do (right click with your mouse and select View page source to see the kind of stuff I work with). This means that your browser does the work. And for that reason, it makes your PC use more energy. In general, browsers render well-formated valid code, way better than bad messed-up code. So your browser will work faster and with less energy if the website is well-formated. Unfortunately, WYSIWYG editors always generate messed up code which is more work for the browser. Now imagine that you have millions of computers using more energy?

I’ve heard a lot of people who call themselves web professionals, who don’t know anything about simple HTML and use programs like Dreamweaver stating how good they are. If you are looking for someone to do a web job for you, first ask them what they think about Dreamweaver. If they say the same as what I’ve said on this website, hire them, but if they start admiring it and try to lie to you how good it is.. run away!