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The Differences between WYSIWYG and Custom Designed Websites

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

WYSIWYG (pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”) stands for “What You See is What You Get”, and in relation to the Internet, describes computer programmes that allow you to create a website graphically, without needing to change code.


WYSIWYG programmes for the Internet were developed to allow non-programmers, without technical or design knowledge to create websites. Normally these programmes were standalone software programmes, but increasingly they are web-based. WYSIWYG editors often come with ready-made templates that allow users to make minor changes such as colour or width of page within the template’s parameters.

What are the benefits of WYSIWYG?

Usable by non-experts
This is the greatest contribution WYSIWYG has made: allowing anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of computers to create a website. Some editors may require some learning, particularly of the more sophisticated packages.
Making a website can be done much faster using a WYSIWYG editor, as the editor takes care of creating the code. Most WYSIWYG editors can help you to create a website in minutes.
Cheap or free
There are many editors that are free or very cheap. Many web hosts now offer free create-a-website WYSIWYG editors that allow you to create a professional looking website. This is far cheaper than employing the services of most website designers.
Direct inputs into the design
As WYSIWYG editors are so easily usable, they allow website creators a direct input into the design of the website. There is no communication barrier that can be faced when the website is designed by someone else.
Easier to edit the design
This depends on the editor used (for example some online editors do not allow many design changes), but in general, if the user has been involved in the creation of the design, they should be capable of altering it.

What are the drawbacks of WYSIWYG?

Bad code
This has always been the classic complaint of WYSIQYG editors. Although the website that is designed may look great, what you cannot see is the very convoluted code that has gone into making it look like this. The problem with having poor code is that your website will not necessarily look the same on different browsers, and search engines may struggle or penalise your website. Increasingly, however, editors are improving the code they output, making it much cleaner and valid. Still, the greater the complexity of the design, the greater the chance that the editor has produced unnecessary code.
Limited control
Sometimes the editor will not let a user make a certain design or layout. This is because the WYSIWYG editor is simply a tool with fixed outputs that cannot match the inventiveness of a human to create a design or effect.
Neglected web design issues
If the user does not involve professional web designers or web developers, they are potentially missing out on valuable advice and experience that could lead to a better website - in terms of design and functionality. Websites may appear to be easy to make, but a good website involves far more than just looking the way you want it to look. Among others, these are topics that a non-expert is likely to ignore: search engine optimization, usability, optimization of graphics.
Providing websites that are accessible to the disabled is not only ethical and good business sense, but in some countries a legal requirement. WYSIWYG editors cannot by themselves follow the best practices for coding that creating an accessible website requires. Furthermore, any non-valid code increases the useability difficulty faced by disabled people.
Harder to upgrade or redesign
If at a later stage a website made using a WYSIWYG editor has to be worked on by a web designer or programmer, an absence of logical code, comments and/or structure can make this task much more complicated. A web designer would then have to pass off the extra time and effort needed to alter the code to the client as an extra cost.
Steep learning curve
While the learning curve for WYSIWYG editors is always less than learning internet coding, some of the more sophisticated WYSIWYG editors, such as Dreamweaver are large complex programs. To be able to use these properly, a large investment of time is needed.


WYSIWYG editors have improved dramatically since they first appeared. The code the better editors create is relatively clean and valid, especially in the case of templates. Using a WYSIWYG editor is appropriate for some people that wish to have a simple website, where search engine optimization is not critical. The most serious criticism of WYSIWYG editors are the neglected design considerations, which can seriously damage a website’s potential. If profitability or high traffic is a goal of a website, learning internet coding or hiring a web designer/programmer is a better solution.

Real Free Websites bypasses all the problems associated with WYSIWYG editors by coding entirely by hand, and thereby maintaining total control over the whole website design process.

Some recommended freeware WYSIWYG editors

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One Response to “The Differences between WYSIWYG and Custom Designed Websites”

  1. Power of Free Says:

    […] the necessary man-hours that currently go into web design. However, as can be seen from comparing current automated web design software with manual coding, there is still a long way to […]

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