Many years ago, when the Internet was still young and web design more a dalliance than a profession, you didn’t need much to build a website. A programme called Microsoft Frontpage, a so called WYSIWYG editor sufficed to publish something everybody else could read. No coding skills required. The outcome was mostly far away from beautiful and the generated code looked even worse.
Then came Macromedia Dreamweaver (you may still work with its latest incarnation called CC) and everything became more technical, more professional. You could see, how the web page looked, but there was also a big focus on the generated code. But even at this early stage of the Internet there was a strong movement to “code only”, to use a text editor to mark-up a website instead of a visual tool. That’s also how I started. Back then, Alistair Homesite (which was then bought by Macromedia, which also got acquired by Adobe later), was my editor of choice, and the way I built websites was not much different than I do it today. Write some code in the editor and then open the outcome inside the browser of my choice. A “visual design tool”, like the Adobe Edge package, would never be a possibility for me – just like for thousands of other professionals.
“A designer needs to code” is the common persuasion in our trade today. Without a proper understanding of the underlying code you can’t build a proper website. A fact that may change soon, maybe we even return back to the good ol’ days of Frontpage – but only a little bit better. The catalyst could be a new tool called Macaw, which did the rounds a few days ago. It also left me impressed. Take a look at it. It not even lets you “draw” a website, but also produces tight code, you could be proud of. Even responsive design is a breeze with it. But what does that mean for us? Everybody with a bit of an affection to design can build a proper website now, heck everybody can build one again, if she is willing to deal with the tool. It undoubtedly is an advantage if you are well versed at the produced code and know a little bit about web design, but it’s not a requirement anymore.
The good thing (or maybe bad, according to your point of view) is, Macaw won’t be the last of it’s kind, many tools like it will follow, if its success is foreseeable. They will get better and better and give us a hard time, if you see it from this perspective. But if you look at it the other way round, it’s a big opportunity for us professionals, because, like you know, web design is not just about drawing pretty picture. To know the underlying principles is a big bonus, a perk which will be even more important in the future if you want to be a serious competitor. So you either get better at what yo do or start straight away to learn Macaw as soon as it is released. There is no middle ground anymore.