Andrea Lacasse | Brand Strategy & Web Design

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Is Coding Dead? Building Websites in 2024

code
I've heard some web designers says

"Coding is dead"

It’s common on online, and social media, to capture your audiences’ attention with provocative content. I just did that with my headline. But, I actually am writing to express my disagreement with this statement “coding is dead” –  I hope you’ll hear me out.

Coding has never been dead. It lives on today, as you read my blog post and interact with anything on the internet. It all lives in code and is very much “alive”.

I grew up with the internet, when websites were super basic and the fanciest and coolest thing you could do was insert <marquee> tags and have text fly across the screen.

There were no “devices”, only desktop computers and the occasional Lenovo laptop. Designing for the internet was a free for all and no one cared much for screen sizes. Adjusting layouts to fit whatever monitor you had wasn’t a thought or consideration when creating a website.

Fast forward to today where we do have multiple devices, we do design for fitting different screen sizes, and we do more than have marquee text moving across the screen (which is now trending ironically).

And, I hear people say things like “coding is dead” and I don’t like it. It’s a shallow statement that grossly undermines the very thing that props up self-taught no-code web designers and allows them to no-code their way to websites.

Not only does it pay no respect to the foundation of websites, it makes you, the person who says “coding is dead”, sound like a complete fool. Coding is everywhere. You can make stuff without knowing it, but you can’t truly understand what you’re doing…

You learn to walk before you run

We must understand where things started in order to appreciate how far they have come. I’m all for efficiency and improving, but not with arrogance and ignorance.

Once, you couldn’t walk. Then you grew up and you learned to walk. That walking knowledge and experience allowed you to run.

Getting from here to there could be faster, more efficient, and more fun. We don’t say walking is dead because we can run. Most people I know don’t have the cardio or stamina to replace walking with running…

Learning how to use a drag-and-drop builder to create a website is an amazing evolution in web design that I am grateful for.

Even if I’m writing lines of code far less than I am dragging elements around to build a page, my knowledge of how to code aids me during the design and development process every single day.

Changing with the times

Website builders are the way, but knowing code will always matter

raspberries

There is rarely a time when I would consider writing out every line of code over using a website builder. Website builders have made creating websites simpler, faster, and more efficient. I wouldn’t be as proficient in building proper websites if it weren’t for my knowledge of how to code them.

Why does understanding some code matter? Because not understanding how things work can lead to poor web design layout, formatting, styling and function. You don’t need to know everything, you just need a good foundation in basic HTML and CSS to understand how to do things the right way.

The settings and properties you adjust in a website builder translate directly to lines of code you would write if you were building without a website builder – by the way. Understanding how to use proper tags for copy, the behavior of elements in relation to each other, and how to use flex box are all things you would learn coding a website.

Website builders are my preferred way of building, but I do still code with them here and there. There is also the not so rare occasion when your drag-and-drop builder won’t let you make a style or formatting change you want and you will turn to code to fix things. It happens and it’s an easy fix for someone with some coding knowledge.

Website builders allow me to create websites in less time than it would to strictly code them, to build with more flexibility and they give greater access to non-designers who might need to make changes without needing to know any code.

Time to launch is so much faster

I can just build faster with a website builder – period. I don’t have to spend as long writing out every line of code, or setting up all of my CDN files to get my site running on bootstrap or importing fonts. Having a builder that lets me access grids, flex boxes, and unlimited styling and animations is a huge time saver.

Flexibility to try new things

As a designer, sometimes what you imagine in your mind isn’t as easy to execute on in the real world and this is especially true in web design. Sometimes you think you want an element over here and you find out it makes more sense somewhere else or just gone all together. Having the flexibility to try different layouts and features in real time is amazing.

If I had to rework an entire 50-100+ lines of code for a section on my site just to get an element in another location it would honestly be too annoying for me to even want to try. Maybe a super seasoned full-stack developer would enjoy the challenge, but time is valuable and builders offer me the flexibility to test different things and still have time to walk my dogs.

Ease of use and collaboration with clients

The reality is, website builders, for better and for worse, allow for more collaboration between the designer and the site owner. There are times when a website owner just wants to change an image on their own, without the help of a designer or a developer, and in many cases they can and should do that on their own.

There are always instances where the site owner breaks a layout, deletes something, or just scrambles a bunch of elements up. There really isn’t a way around this unless site owners invest some time to learn the builder their site is using and dedicate time to understanding some basic HTML/CSS and website best practices.

I’ll write a blog post another day on the dos and don’ts of updating your own website as a non-designer, but just know that when I work with my clients I always build their sites in a way that allows them to modify, add, or remove content to reflect seasonal changes in their brand and business.

I also have clients that want “done-for-you” websites and I manage and maintain their websites for them so there is never a moment of “oops I deleted something” or “I think I messed up” where I have to go in and do recon on an entire page which can be costly when billed hourly to fix if you are not on a website maintenance plan with me!

You have options for website builders - too many

The amount of all-in-one, do-it-yourself, and drag-and-drop website builders on the market is overwhelming. My head hurts just thinking about all the different platforms and products I’ve tried along with the hours I spent watching training videos, reading documentation, and building websites in each.

It’s too much for me and I love web design, so I know how overwhelming it is for the everyday individual or business owner who is just trying to get themselves online.

How to choose a builder and a platform

Builders. Platform. Do-it-yourself. Hire a professional web designer.

If you’re trying to tackle your website on your own and struggling to find out what to do and “which website builder is the best” I have a solution for you – just stop.

Everyone thinks their platform is the best and people are paid daily to promote website builders on their YouTube channels, on podcasts and in other sponsored posts. You’re about to find out which platform I suggest in the next few sentences and I don’t get paid to tell you this by the way.

If you are seriously willing to spend the time to research for hours and hours and compare every builder to each other then go for it. Knowledge is power. You will come to your own conclusion on which one is best because the answer is different for everyone. “Best” is a subjective word and no two website builders are the same even if they render similar results.

Spoiler alert: I love WordPress and I don’t get paid to say that

I largely build website for in-person service-based businesses. Think salons, gyms, fitness center, real estate offices, automotive shops, and more. Those businesses need marketing websites to promote their services that they provide in person. So, I am not talking about e-commerce when I say service-based businesses.

WordPress is still the most widely used CMS on the planet and it’s not for nothing. They may not spend as much money on paid search ads like Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix but they honestly don’t need to.

WordPress is that good. It always has been.

As a long time WordPress user, it is still the greatest even if it’s UI is not as modern and flashy as some of the platforms I just mentioned. People online say that it comes with a “steep learning curve” but that’s true for every new piece of technology you adopt for your business and is even more true if you are not tech savvy or you don’t pick up on things quickly.

WordPress supports a ton of different website and page builders like Elementor (my favorite), Bricks, Divi, Beaver Builder and Breakdance just to name a few. If I’m honest, for a person bootstrapped to start their website on their own, WordPress is not the most inviting platform even though it is arguably one of the best. If you work with a designer to build your site you can have an easier go and with a little bit of learning on your part, you will come to love WordPress.

I’m comfortable in it now and I am comfortable teaching my clients the ins-and-outs of how to update, modify, change, and remove content from their sites without my help if they are up for the challenge. So, if you ever work with me you’re in good hands and I won’t leave you out in the dark. Speaking of the dark…

The dark side of do-it-yourself website platforms

The “do-it-yourself” website route is not as easy as they make it seem. Learning some of these builders, like Wix, is no walk in the park. You have to spend a considerable amount of time learning how to use their editor, reading through their documentation and watching training videos to learn how to properly setup and build your website. Forget about how buggy their editor can be when you want to align things perfectly and you can’t tell one guide from another. Things can turn to chaos real fast.

I’ve built on all the major “do-it-yourself” website builder platforms and they might be fine for basic websites, but they don’t cut it when you want something professional and unique for your brand. I don’t think many people understand the psychology behind websites and why a good one matters, but I can tell you using the out-of-the-box templates that these platforms provide makes you look like everyone else and blending in is never good for business.

I’ve also seen some bad DIY Wix websites. I said it. I know people and have helped people fix their Wix websites (many switch to WordPress by the way) and they didn’t know they needed to build their site for mobile and they didn’t understand basic web design and it showed.

You get sold on “ease of use” at a low starting pricing that eventually gets jacked up so high I can’t stomach some of the pricing structures of these subscriptions. Not only do they get pricey, everything is an add on, or not included and you spend more for features that come with other platforms for free.

The worst part for me is if you outgrown your platform your site isn’t coming with you. That’s right. You have to start over from scratch on whatever platform you move to next. Your “do-it-yourself” websites live and die on Wix, Squarespace and Shopify.

I want to close with this. Do-it-yourself looks like do-it-yourself. Professional looks professional. You decide if your brand is DIY quality or professional quality and that will help you with answering the next question I have for you…

The Real Question

Should you try to build your own website or should you hire a professional web designer?

If you ask any business owner, “do you want people to be impressed or unimpressed when they land of your website?” every single person is going to say “impressed”. If that’s the case, then I want you to ask yourself this question: do you actually want to spend the time to learn web design, research a platform you think will work, learn how to use it and build your own website? Or, do you want a professional to build you a professional website that everyone will be impressed with, so much so, that it generates business for you in your sleep?

If you want a professional, user-friendly, responsive website that fits your brand and meets your needs then talk to a professional website designer, like me, and I’ll pick the right platform for your business and I’ll build your website so it works for you.

Let's get to it

Stand out with a professional website for your brand

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