The Headaches of WYSIWYG | ISGMLUG

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The Headaches of WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG is garble of letters and a long acronym that stands for ‘what you see is what you get’. It is an interface that has revolutionized the internet. Previously only those who could write code such as HTML, java, XML or those who could make Flash movies were able to put up a website. This naturally inhibited a lot of great material from being posted on the net. The solution was WYSIWYG editors. The most famous of which is Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver along with many other of the original WYSIWYG editors convert the screen as manipulated using typing, inserting pictures and hyperlinks into HTML language.

I’ve been using Dreamweaver for several years now, and I’ve noticed that it is flawed as a tool for those with absolutely no coding knowledge. It makes lots of errors. For example if you write text and then apply a style to it and then erase the words the style <span> tags or <div> will often remain in place. Thus when the text is replaced the styling remains whether it is wanted or not. This is how I learnt HTML – by correcting the mistakes made by my WYSIWYG editor.

Another headache that I encountered when I made my first website using the WYSIWYG editor Dreamweaver is that the site looked very different across different browsers. It looked as my editor displayed it on Firefox but completely wrong on Internet Explorer and Safari. It took days to get a modicum of standardization across different browsers.

One solution is to use a different type of WYSIWYG. The best known of which is WordPress. This editor lets you see the page or post as it will look or switch to HTML to insert <h1> tags etc. However, the editor uses a php template that interacts with the server to store, arrange and publish the page or post. WordPress is ideal for people who just want to put up a website and have no knowledge of coding. You just click publish and you are away. You can import new themes to the server and all the content is automatically changed. Widgets for calendars, link lists, social media etc. are easy to import and install. And best of all, the website looks virtually identical on all browsers. Internet marketers and small businesses as well as bloggers use WordPress style WYSIWYG a lot. Google’s free blogger system is very similar.

The only problem with this type of WYSIWYG is that all the websites that it produces look the same – despite numerous themes and the chance to change colors and customize headers the basic layout is the same. It has a generic likeness that allows people who deal with WordPress to immediately say ‘Ah that’s a WordPress site’. The makers of such WYSIWYG are trying hard to make their systems more flexible but they seemed confined by the fact that their remit is to provide a service for people who can’t or won’t code.

For most people this is not a problem. For large corporations and for those who want to make stand-out websites it is a problem. With a WordPress WYSIWYG you don’t start with a blank canvas. Rather you choose a theme and half the canvas is already filled out for you.

Finally, WordPress continues to remain vulnerable to hackers. Its php login system allows a weak point for hackers to attack. I have only had one HTML site hacked, whereas I’ve lost count how many times hackers have bought down one of my WordPress sites.

These are all things that need to be weighed up when you consider using a WYSIWYG editor.

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