I recently took on a new client who had an existing WIX website. The initial plan was that I would update the WIX site. I’ve never used WIX so I told the client I’d have a look and expected it would not be a problem to update. Then I took a look and discovered that WIX is a visual editor, the sort you might get with a page layout application like Affinity Publisher or Apple Pages. I knew the code from that sort of application would not be efficient or anything close to semantic but it was far worse than I expected.
To set the context, a normal page from one of my websites might be 5 to 6 printed pages of html, code and actual content. The text content is easily readable by a human. Add to that another 1 to 2 pages of code in a linked css file. About 35 kb for the html and css combined. On the html page the metadata is right a the top followed by the content. I printed the code for one page of the WIX site to a pdf document and the result was 136 pages. The metadata description appears at page 101. The first actual text content of the page finally appears at page 116. The file was 480 kb.
Other visual website layout apps produce the same kind of code. One aspect of this is that the visual editors are supposed to make creating and updating websites easier for users who may not have the experience to build a website. In my brief use I didn’t find that to be the case at all. In the bit of time I spent in the WIX page editor I found it clumsy to use. Perhaps given enough time it would get easier but I didn’t like the feel of it at all. Of course, if someone needs a website and has no website building skills this would indeed allow them to build and update a website that mostly works.
While visual page layout for websites might provide a certain freedom to the designing of a page and visual placement of elements in a more free form process, I don’t think the ultimate rendered page works nearly as well. Certainly this client’s site was not working as well on my devices as it should have and there were a few errors on the various pages. Obviously a well coded page displays content exactly as intended.
I’ve now got the client’s website moved over to a properly coded website and have come away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for the difference beteen the approaches. No surprises or new information here, just a reminder of the quality differences. And if I’m being honest, I’m happy to be able to say that I’ve been hand coding websites with a respect for file sizes, usability and standards for 20+ years.