Hand-coded HTML & CSS: A Lost Art

I recently read an article on Slashdot.org that mentioned that the design director from NYTimes.com has his team hand-code all HTML and CSS for browser consistency.  Below is an excerpt from the actual Q&A from NYTimes.com.

Q: Regardless of platform or browser, NYTimes.com looks the same. This is not an easy feat to accomplish because of inconsistencies between browsers and how they handle HTML and CSS. How do you do it and with which tools?

A: It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

— Neil Mansilla

But really the browser-to-browser consistency that you see (and I have to admit, it’s far from perfect) is the result of a vigilant collaboration between many different groups — the visual designers and technologists in the design team that I lead, their counterparts in our technology staff, and the many, many detail-oriented people who come together to make the site a reality every hour of every day.

One of the things that makes my job here so satisfying is that, among all of these many different kinds of collaborators, there’s a healthy respect for design. Everyone is committed to putting the best face forward for The Times — including paying close attention to visual integrity of the site. Regardless of the tools you use, it’s really only that kind of commitment that makes it possible to maintain consistency on a site as sprawling as ours.

- Khoi Vinh

I have been a web developer for nine years and in my various roles I have been the sole developer and designer.  I am of the same opinion Mr. Vinh with regards to hand-coding.  I would rather use Notepad or Bluefish (a great HTML editor for Linux) than use a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver or Frontpage.  My dilemma is that as a sole developer/designer, my time becomes quite taxed very quickly.  When a request comes in to update content like a phone number or add a new link, it has seemed quicker to fire up Dreamweaver and make these changes.  I don’t really enjoy working in Dreamweaver as it doesn’t create as clean a code as hand-coding, but time constraints sometimes force to use Dreamweaver.

If you have a chance to read this blog post, I would be very interested to hear from you which your prefer – WYSIWYG or hand-coding.

  • http://ahTXT.com/ Neil

    Hi there.. I’m the fellow that submitted the question to the NYtimes. I’m a Linux user myself.. I’ve used NVU/Komp, but really, doing it by hand (I use vim) is how I mostly do things now. Back in the day, I did use Frontpage quite a bit (blush).

    What really drives me garbanzo is the little nuances in CSS that MSIE and FireFox have.. tiny little one pixel shifts, here and there.. or unadopted syntax.. the workarounds are numerous.