337 – No code is a lie

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 13: No code is a lie” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

So you’ve been building websites for a while now and you’ve got really good at it. You don’t really touch the code, but that’s okay, because the tool that you’re using promised that you would never have to.

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Erm… how’s that working out in reality?

I’m guessing that if this question resonates with you, you’ll be interested in the podcast today.

Is it possible to have tools which really allow you to create good, working websites with none, zero, nada, ziltch, no code at all?

We get into the subject by talking about what we mean by no code in a WordPress context. The fact that you’ll likely quickly learnt that you’re going to need at least some knowledge of HTML and CSS if you’re going to step outside of simple templated sites and tweak the presentation, even if just a little.

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We then get into whether or not it’s even reasonable to offer WordPress website clients a template as an option. If you’re asking for their money, should there be more thought put into the process than this, or does a lower budget justify this approach?

Are no code solutions really just marketing hype? Is it really possible to have a product where you literally have no contact with the code. Most solutions us things like px for margins and padding, and so in some sense you’re using code, albeit a tiny amount with no real understanding of how it’s being implemented.

As a website builder, is it really a good idea to have no code as an aspiration? We all know that if you learn the code, you’ll be able to do more. So why not have this as your ambition from the start. If you know how to do more complex things, there’s no downside, you’ll just be a better website builder, but you might have less time on your hands?

Are you finding that over the years you’re moving from tool to tool? If you learned HTML, CSS and JS, you’re on a solid foundation. It changes, but only really by adding new things into the spec. If you rely on a tool, you’re relying on that tool to be around and working for all your projects in the future. Is this wise? We’ve seen page builders come and go over the years and the amount of time rebuilding with a new tool, which you now need to place your faith in, can be a killer to your business.

And of course, there’s AI and what this will do to you, your business and your will to live in the months and years to come.

If you’re creating WordPress websites with the assistance of tools, this podcast is for you.

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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:21] Nathan Wrigley: Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast, you've reached episode number 337. Entitled no code is a lie. It was published on Thursday, the 3rd of August, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few moments by my good friend, David Waumsley, so that we can have our chat about no code.

But before that a few bits of housekeeping, the first thing is to mention is that I am taking a break next week. I'm having a week off so that I can spend some time with the family. So there will be no podcast episode next week, but we will be back the week after that.

The other thing to mention is I hope that you've been enjoying our webinar series. I did one recently with Mark Westguard and I also am in the process of doing one with Patrick Posner, all about static websites. You can find that by going to our wpbuilds.com website. And if you go to the archives link right at the top of the page and search for demo archives, you'll be able to see the episodes that we've recorded so far, we've done three out of the four so far, but if you're interested in static sites, that's a really good place to learn about how all of that works.

The other thing to mention is that the page builder summit is back on. We're on version six, it's happening towards the latter part of September, 2023. And we're on the lookout for some sponsors. If you, or a friend or a company that you work for, in fact, if you can think of any way in which you can help out sponsoring then had to page builder summit.com forward slash sponsor that's pagebuildersummit.com forward slash sponsor to find out more.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by Go Daddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. That's go.me forward slash WP Builds. And true, sincere thanks for GoDaddy pro for their continuing ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. What have we got for you today? Well, it's David and I in our 13th episode or the thinking the unthinkable series and the topic we've decided to tackle today is, no code is a lie.

Is it possible to replace your business simply with templated options? Is no code a revolution as some would claim? Should we even be using no code solutions, or is it better to concentrate and gain expertise with code? Is no code a threats to developers. And what about AI, how does that all fit in the mix? While we've got some options for you today? Some thoughts, and we would love to hear your comments. If you fancy making a comment, then go to WP Builds.com. Search for episode number 337 and leave us a comment there. I hope you enjoy the show.

[00:03:37] David Waumsley: Hello. It's the 13th episode of our Thinking the Unthinkable series. Today, we are daring to think that no code is a lie. And I think Nathan, we've agreed that we're restricting ourselves on the sort of sites that would otherwise be built with kind of HTML, CSS, and simple JavaScript what a front end developer might or designer might do.

[00:03:59] Nathan Wrigley: So are we just limiting ourselves to building out a basic static site? Is that what you mean by that?

[00:04:06] David Waumsley: I think so, because I think, yeah, if we tried to get into all the no code options for the dynamic stuff, we'll be at it forever.

[00:04:13] Nathan Wrigley: I think that

[00:04:14] David Waumsley: I

[00:04:14] Nathan Wrigley: you were trying to build, I don't know, Twitter or something yeah, you're not really gonna get very far without coding. But if you want to just bang out a fairly straightforward, simple site with some content, which doesn't change too much over time, is no code a lie or no code is a lie as you've written.


[00:04:34] David Waumsley: Yeah, we've got to define no code, because people talk about no code and low code is another term that people, and I'm never quite sure what they mean, but I think it's obviously a similar misnomer to serverless, which is a. Hot topic at the moment. And of course that is because it actually increases the service you use by about 200 times, in fact, and I think probably no code is similar.

Really. We don't run off solar or something. Code is definitely still involved, but it's, I guess our definition, do you agree is where the user can create a website without any code knowledge?

[00:05:14] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, so maybe we should limit ourselves to just three things in this case, and that would be HTML, CSS, JavaScript. We could obviously get into, in the WordPress space, things like PHP and more complicated variants of JavaScript and what have you. But yeah, so throwing out a simple page requires HTML and CSS, perhaps not JavaScript.

But yes, if somebody has no knowledge of Any of those things, can they build a serviceable website? Okay.

[00:05:45] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I think, it's that's what it's been used for most. Isn't it? And let's talk about the first thing that we actually got some show notes here, some questions to ask ourself. And first one is beyond replacing content on a template. Is it really possible to avoid something like CSS?

[00:06:02] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, when you wrote that prompt as a question, so the back and forth that David and I have is that these show notes come up and we both contribute things. David often poses questions and I'll write in response to him. I thought the answer to that question is I don't really think that you do need to have too much knowledge, because, for example, if you go to a service, so this is nothing to do with WordPress, but if you go to a service like Squarespace, Wix, and so on, I think the premise is that, isn't it, is that you just You don't need to know any of that stuff.

If you do know that stuff, you can probably fine tune things, but in order to get something out, you can log in, create a page, click on a template, amend the template, add rows. change the images, whatever, and then click save. And you probably don't even need to get involved with the basics. Margins and padding.

They're probably called something else and you probably don't need to know that pixels are involved. It's, is a small padding or medium padding or large or whatever. And WP default blocks now go down in this route as well. You've got SML, Excel, things like that. So I think you probably can.

Now, you could get into the whole debate about whether it's a good website or not. But it's a website. It's live on the internet. And... You only have to look at the numbers. Squarespace's numbers and Wix's numbers. They're doing very well, so I think it is possible, yes.

[00:07:38] David Waumsley: Yes I think that here's the thing, and is that where the no code is a lie could come in is that a lot of people could. Go to that. That was maybe start with a template, but as we were talking about earlier, it's very easy for that to go wrong for them quite quickly. And then they need some help, which is often custom code.

And that is, they set up the header, the headers being set up to design for a rectangle logo, and you've got a square one, and then the text is squinched up as. Particularly if it's got one of those shrinking headers that go with you as you scroll. And then your navigation's been set up with Flexbox CSS, so it can accommodate more, but there's a limit before they start getting squeezed up together.

Or you get some widows, which look terrible on some devices, spoiling the usability. Or we get the hero section. I was talking about that earlier, about the fact that, it, the template says we sell tea and use. You want to replace that with, we sell curtains and upholstery in Bradford and suddenly things aren't sitting quite well because of the way that's been designed, because you either get it too small on the desktop or too big.

So you don't get to the main text on the key. Hero side of things and it just even a big image. So I think it's very easy that people who don't stick within a template can very quickly feel like they need CSS or somebody to help them with CSS.

[00:09:08] Nathan Wrigley: I think you've made a really good point in that the templating system only works within the boundaries of what it's designed to do. And that probably is a cause of endless frustration. The perfect example there was the text which destroys the header, all of a sudden the background image no longer looks like a background image, or the logo.

Which ought to be a rectangle. The template's designed for that, but you've got a square. So your logo looks ridiculous and tiny and, completely out of place. I'm wondering how, I'm wondering if the temptation is exactly the opposite. Rather than tweaking the code, I wonder if somebody just goes off and redesigns the logo for it to be a rectangle or just, removes the word from in Bradford and upholstery and just, we sell furniture.

In other words, they tweak the content to fit the template. I bet that happens, but you are right. If you want it to be perfect, I imagine the whole templating system is not going to be satisfactory. You are going to have to get into the weeds of it, but I guess. That's a nice introduction to it, isn't it?

If you begin in that way, because that's largely how I began. I began by knowing almost nothing, and then figuring out, oh, why is that doing that? And then I discovered that, oh, you can do that thing with CSS, can you? That's interesting, alright, I'll try that. And learned a little bit like that, but I didn't start with any expectation of knowing the code, but yes, definitely learnt some along the way, so I concede that, that's a good point.

[00:10:35] David Waumsley: Outsourcing, LLC. Yeah. I think, for both of us in some ways, it is a stepping stone into something you wouldn't have been able to do before. We're definitely part of that no code. This was the next question really is no code a revolution as some, are we in the middle of a revolution or is it could even be in decline.

Who knows, but there has been a surge. Hasn't there ever lots of people being able to build sites with not knowing code.

[00:11:03] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I think this has been one of the drivers of WordPress success over the last... Let's say decade. Maybe it's not quite as long as that. But the evolution of these tools, and there's a whole variety of them, but let's just broadly call them page builders. These tools that empowered people to build things in a visual way.

And really visual way, in the sense that what is basically what you're going to get. You click save and all that happens is that the UI elements, which indicate that you're editing things, they disappear. But broadly speaking, the website looks the same. I think it's driven a lot of growth. The data speaks for itself, doesn't it?

You only have to look at some, and you can mention the links that you've got with, built with and what have you in a minute. But the growth of some of these page builders, the really popular ones seems to be directly related to the growth in WordPress's growth. In other words, if Those plugins, themes in some cases, that enabled drag and drop building, no code building, hadn't been invented and we were still using the templating engine and you had to use PHP and you had to understand all of that stuff.

I I don't think WordPress would be anywhere near where it is now.

[00:12:15] David Waumsley: Now, and it was interesting. I haven't, I didn't look at that recently, but if I remember correctly, the Google trends for kind of WordPress search terms, and it peaked in I think it was yeah, 2014. And then it's been dropping off in terms of people looking there. But when we look at the kind of.

Page builders and stuff and searches for that. And what I looked up just recently was, and it's a surprise and maybe to a lot of our audience that this is the way it is. So if we look at built with Elementor, it's a clear upward trend with no fall off that we see completely. They say they've got 13 million, which is over 20%, and W three texts puts it as the fastest growing content management system.

So it, it's treating it as if it's WordPress almost since the 1st of April, 2003, so sorry, 2023. So it's quite interesting how a lot of us in our circles might think well, It's peak was some years back and then we look at WP Bakery, which you and I, it was it was almost forgotten about, wasn't it?

Because it was there before we even thought about page builders and it wasn't one of the new options for us. So you didn't think it got talked about, but it's way up there still dropped off a little bit, but

[00:13:40] Nathan Wrigley: Totally phenomenal. Like I will link to the built with article that David found and it's called elemental usage statistics. And it charts from 2017, which I imagine is the date when it was released. It says the sixth, it's the sixth month of 2017. So June, 2017 starts at zero and then. More or less the whole chart is at about an angle of 40 degrees.

Obviously, you spread the x axis out how you like, but there is no point where there is a sustained dip. There's a teeny tiny dip at the end of, or in the latter part of 2021, but that self corrects within the space of a month. So it's just this inexorable rise, and honestly, it felt... If you'd have asked me if that chart existed like that, it felt to me like Elementor's growth would have stagnated by now.

Because of the amount of chatter that I hear about it. But that just isn't the case. Chatter or no, it's still growing. Maybe it's just not become a hot topic anymore. Maybe the content creators have found other things to talk about and Facebook groups have got other things to talk about. But yeah, the other one...

Again, I'll link to the W3 text chart, which is historical trends in the usage statistics of WordPress subcategories for websites. Yeah, again WooCommerce, broadly speaking, staying about the same, WPBakery declining very slowly, BeaverBuilder about the same, but way, way down, and there's the Elementor line again, just going up, it is amazing.

[00:15:21] David Waumsley: Yeah. So people like, this podcast came out of our connection through Beaver Builder. was the hot thing to us in our little bubble. And we would have thought that, that was the new shining star and things like WP Bakery were dead compared to it. But obviously it was, 10 times the size, Yeah,

[00:15:41] Nathan Wrigley: so little we knew, would be really interested to know if, obviously I've got no way of doing this, and I've got no way of knowing how true this is going to be, I'd be really interested to know if you t 50% of the element or user base or a hundred percent of that user base and ask them that question about how much code do they know?

Here's a quick 10 point. Survey, tell us what you know about CSS and JavaScript and HTML. I don't know what the answer to that would be. My guess is that a significant amount of them are using it be so that they don't need to know any code at all. They know that there are things called pixels.

They know that there is this thing called padding and they know what the outcome of that is, that it adds space around the edge and they know that, sorry on the inside and they know there's margin and all those kinds of things, but they don't. They don't realize that then writes some CSS, which looks like this, and it's got curly brackets, and all of that kind of thing.

They just know that they fill in that little box, and it does what it says on the tin. It has a result on the website, and they know it exists, but perhaps don't know even that there's a CSS file anywhere.

[00:16:53] David Waumsley: Yeah, Yeah it's interesting on our bias because also I, I put something here and you responded to, I'm not quite sure where it is in our notes, but it was a bit like I, you might be surprised by Elementor because you see a lot of content makers who are very popular at the moment Elementor, getting more into the code than they did before it maybe was a starting point.

Yeah. To go that kind of direction. I think Kyle from the admin bar, somebody who very clearly says I really knew no code, but code is really for me the way. So I try and pick my builder where I can, fiddle around with the code more keep it slim. And there's a lot of people, similar to that who have moved that direction, but it's probably out of keeping with what's really happening.

It's just who you happen to follow within, that kind of, within the community.

[00:17:45] Nathan Wrigley: I think I think there's a bit of that, but you're right. The social media campaigns for Elementor by content creators has dropped off. But I'm imagining that there's an element there of that there's no, there's not really much more content to make.

[00:18:03] David Waumsley: Yeah.

[00:18:03] Nathan Wrigley: We know everything that there is to know about that particular piece of software.

So let's move on to try something else. And also. I guess Gutenberg and the advent of new builders like Bricks seems to be very hot at the minute. And because there's a lot of people who don't know anything about it, there's lots of content to be made. And so people are curious to watch that content as opposed to elemental content.

And then you wrote down things like generate blocks or cadence, which try to do. Broadly speaking, page building functionality, but with inside the Gutenberg interface. Again, people don't know how to do that. So there's lots of content. So it feels like it's skewed in that direction, but the data, the W3, sorry, the built with data really goes against that.

It's just, that's what the content creators are doing, not what the population are doing.

[00:18:48] David Waumsley: Yeah, there feels like there might be a delay in this. Maybe it's reaching its peak. I don't know. It's very hard to know

[00:18:53] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah,

[00:18:54] David Waumsley: is it a revolution? Is it on the turn? And from my point of view, because I'm moving much more towards code now, it's what I love now, but it's, so I look for it, so I see it as probably, Oh, that's probably, old hat now. So,

[00:19:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah you're probably, I say you, we're all we're all being biased by the feed that we get from YouTube or Facebook or whatever. If the, typically the content that you're watching is what you will be served up more. So it always feels like the thing that I'm into is the same thing that everybody's into.

But. Yeah, Elementor is all the rage still. Interesting.

[00:19:33] David Waumsley: Yeah. I think there's also the delay. Like I was just saying with the amount of content that would have been made on Elementor, it would take a long time before equivalent. Alternatives to Elementor content was made to counter

[00:19:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's

[00:19:49] David Waumsley: for new people coming, they're going to see a lot of that stuff.

Yeah, so we're probably always behind the trend there, but yes, fascinating anyway, to look at that. So who do you think should or should not use no code solutions?

[00:20:04] Nathan Wrigley: Well, This is an interesting one, isn't it? Because, the question here really is, Are you a professional if you don't know any code? Is that kind of what we're smuggling into this question? Is that kind of it? In other words, If, can you claim to be a professional, if you know a page builder, if you can't answer some basic questions about CSS, are you really fit for the job?

I just don't know what the answer to this is because I think if you can provide a solution for a client and what you're giving them ticks the boxes that they need ticking and it may be that in the back of your mind. You have this feeling that maybe the code is a bit bloated. Maybe I haven't thought enough about accessibility.

Maybe there's a whole bunch of things that I should have stripped down in CSS. Maybe we're loading a load of JavaScript libraries that we don't need. Maybe all of that's true. But the client has paid me. That is my primary motive. I'm happy. I guess if that's your concern, and you don't need to touch the code, and you can deliver the project, and all the people are happy, then...

No, you don't need to code, but I feel that you're, in particular you're going, you really are going in the other direction. You've realized that over the last ten years. Same with me, that over the last 10 years the page builder, the no code solution has lulled you into a sense where this is how I want to do it in the future.

And now you've realized that you've become de skilled, you've, you haven't kept up to date with the latest trends, and there's a lot of cool latest trends, especially in CSS, and so you think, no, no code is not where I want to be anymore, I can do far more with less resources, less dependencies. I think.

You're more of a professional for doing it that way. But I don't know if the clients care.

[00:22:03] David Waumsley: It's I don't, I think there's, it's what you're selling, isn't it? There is a, I think the biggest problem is, I put some things up. There is perhaps a global responsibility for people in our trade. Maybe because no code means. More than needed code. And there's environmental considerations to go with that.

And that bad user experience, we know really that our clients don't know how to judge what they need in terms of a website. They only know it from what they see and other functionality. And they ask whether they can have that, but they don't necessarily understand that kind of 80% of how you might go about creating a good user experience for people.

So if we. If we just indulge what the client asked for, could we just be lowering the usability of the web more generally? And I think accessibility now comes up as a bigger issue. How do we deal with that? And also, could also this decline something that's very human, that kind of UX work, understanding, getting empathy with other users.

Those kind of very human jobs that can't really be bettered by AI. We're not losing them by just giving the client what they want. That looks like a website. Here's a website. Are you happy with it? Good. Done. Pay me, so

[00:23:23] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, sorry, you, I apologize, I interrupted.

[00:23:26] David Waumsley: No, no, that's all. So I think for me to be honest, I'm in code.

I'm useless at it. I just don't have the capacity for that. I'm more into the psychology, but what, why I've lent more towards the code now is because of the fact that if I'm doing that. Then I'm going to monitor the sites to see how people are using it. We're going to interpret it together. There's going to be a longer relationship.

So I probably need to own that code a bit better so I can tweak it as needed in a more easy way, rather than have to fight up with the system, which may have to be changed as technology goes. I might as well just go the slow route with the technology and just only take notice of what the W3C is. So it's not really.

I I hope it's not code snobbery because I, I'm really not qualified to have any, I'm just useless with it, but I'm starting to learn it and take it more seriously on the basis that the way I think I should go for me anyway, is to do that kind of more UX agile type approach where we improve and we see.

I've redefined the web designer's job for me as not somebody who creates the website that the client likes, but as the person who helps that client through technology, communicate with an audience out there.

[00:24:39] Nathan Wrigley: I love this bit. I think this is probably the, one of the best bits that we've had in our conversations in weeks and weeks. My slightly glib answer of, yeah, if the client's happy, you're happy, we've ticked the boxes, hand it over. Then job done. I bet that is the raison d'etre for a lot of people, right?

It's just get the job done, move on. But these points that you raised are so cool. The environmental considerations, we've talked about this in the past tangentially and in other dedicated podcasts as well. The stripping down the code so that you are creating less of a footprint.

This is such a, such. It's so the right thing to do in every way. The bad user experience, really thinking about that. So that your client isn't just getting some sort of cookie cutter site, but they're getting something which really makes their business work. And it may be that the original ideas get all thrown out the window and you end up with something totally unexpected because you had the conversation rather than using a template.

And then of course, the. The whole issue of accessibility and the fact that there's a proportion of the people out there who will not be able to consume what is on your website, unless you do that work, this is who's going to argue with that? That's such an important thing. And this is the area where.

You can't do that without understanding a bit of the code. You've got to understand how a person who has sight impairment is browsing around. If they've got a keyboard reader, you've got to know what they're looking for. You've got to know about the way that the tab key works and where it's going to hop to, and how it's going to behave in a menu and all of those kind of things.

And this is just so important. And it. I don't know how you always have that discussion with clients, but I feel that is one of the areas where you increasingly, those discussions have to happen every single time. Because what's going into my head here, the analogy that's going into my head here a bit is, I go into a second hand car salesman's showroom, and I just get sold a car, which on the outside, Looks great, the bodywork is shiny, the paintwork is in good condition, everything works, the engine's humming along nicely.

And I drive it out of the forecourt and ten minutes later it turns out that the whole thing was soldered together underneath and it's fallen apart and it's basically junk. That's what I'm getting. As opposed to going to a good car salesman who realises that if they sell me a good car, I'm gonna come back.

Probably. For the rest of my life, because now I've built up trust for them. They've sold me something. They've pointed out the failures. They've pointed out where it's good. I've got a good deal. I know that it's going to be roadworthy and. And that's the, that's what you want. You don't want the dodgy salesman.

You want the decent salesman who's giving you the skinny on everything you need to know. And yeah, honestly, bravo for all those points. They're super cool.

[00:27:48] David Waumsley: I think, you made a point on this one where we're saying who should and should not. And it's one that you can't argue with because it applies to us, without the no code solutions, would we even get to being people who might think a bit more about the code, would have just been out of the equation.

Would we have ever got started with a lot of stuff,

[00:28:09] Nathan Wrigley: It's It's interesting because both you and I did start without the stuff, didn't we?

[00:28:14] David Waumsley: we did start with a

[00:28:15] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. And then the tools became so beguiling that we just had total. We just got completely phased by them. Got into that, forgot what we were doing. Forgot how to do it in many cases. Ignored the new technologies that would come along because our tools didn't use them.

And yeah. And I know that for you at least anyway, you've really swung in the opposite direction.

[00:28:38] David Waumsley: Yeah, I have in a way, but yeah definitely. But. I don't know if it's the same for you, we didn't discuss this earlier, but there was like a point, I think in the, which I think has been overcome now because the browser operators are all working together with the W3C to put the spec out in the same way.

And they're thinking much more about designers. So it's got better, but I think there was a point where I switched to the page builders where the code just got, it changed a lot. We went. Mobile responsive, which was a lot to learn, it got more complex there. And then we were moving from things like floats, which were always a bit hacky and weird.

And if you've done tables before, and then we moved into Flexbox, which actually took a lot. So actually suddenly at the time of these, you're having to get stuff out for clients a bit quicker. Cause at that time, for me, the demand was that they just wanted what they could see, and I hadn't thought about all this UX stuff before, even though it was out there.

But it just hadn't reached me. So that was the only way really. And suddenly after the idea of having to try and do, which I did, even in WordPress, I was still with the Genesis handwriting, the CSS, if not the HTML, I still, but there was a point where it just got an overload of the information.

Wow. It was like taking a holiday when you found the first page builder that, outputted something that was it,

[00:30:01] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. And also there was just that sort of fatigue of it all. It was a bit boring writing code into a text editor and saving it up into the... Into the website's file structure somewhere. It was just such a pleasure, wasn't it? And the tools were just so cool. You could drag things.

I remember the first time seeing Beaver Builder. And just being, like, blown away what? It's that easy?

[00:30:25] David Waumsley: yeah,

[00:30:26] Nathan Wrigley: And really, just forgot all about the code for a decade or more.

[00:30:31] David Waumsley: Layouts were crucifying me before just now how to lay out all of this stuff. So drag and drop your stuff in there. The rest of it, maybe, if it was just the drag and drop with a series of HTML slots or something, it would have been enough for me, but obviously, you've got this, you've got a photo module.

You've got this gallery. You might as well use it as you're here, and on you go. And for a long time, that's been perfectly fine for me. And. And I don't think I'd be doing it if they weren't around, but it has flipped me the other way because of the CSS is now going we got some really cool stuff.

And it's, if you spend a bit of time on it,

[00:31:10] Nathan Wrigley: For those people who are listening, David, I think it'd be quite nice, just a couple, maybe a tinier side. What do you mean by that? What cool stuff is there going on in CSS that you're enjoying?

[00:31:20] David Waumsley: well, I think the biggest thing is the new way to lay out your pages or in your entire site would be CS grid, which is now fully supported. And I think this is a real, this. If you want to use that, then you are restricted in most of the WordPress solutions because it's working to the Flexbox. So you're only working within a row.

You're working in one dimension at a time where with grid, if you get your head around it, which is not easy, I must say. It is incredible because you can set up within your whole body where your head is going to go in your footer. And. For example, you might want to have for your mobiles, you would start mobile first, your navigation, where your thumbs are at the bottom of the screen, and then without duplicating the content, as you would have to do with Flexbox, you can have that jump up to the top right of your header for the desktops or something like that, and you can move stuff around.

And I think it's really For me, one of the things, one of the beauties of a lot of the technologies that came with WordPress was if you had a custom post type, say products or something, and you arrange the design, you had this product image on one side and then this text and the title was above it and then there was some other tabs or something underneath it, you could rearrange that if you had Sort of custom fields going into this dynamic content to move all of that kind of stuff around and that was like, wow, in one template, you could change everything and change all of these custom post types.

You could have hundreds of them, but now with CSS grid, you can go actually, I didn't need to make it that complex. It's three dimensional. I can set up sections and move them around on the grid, so there's a lot of that cool stuff, but I think. So much of every part of the website I think is changing now with, or there's some better alternatives which will, it'll make it Difficult for them to come easily into a builder situation.

We've got HD colors coming very soon, wider color gamut. So we'd have to change all those. We've got different fonts, flexible fonts. We've got being able to set your character width for consistency. We've got all the way of organizing the code through custom properties or variables.

Yeah, CS variables, and I don't know, I could go on forever, but also image formations and how you use images and just even variable fonts. And now you can start to make them look. Gruff and stuff, if you know some c s and change them, you've got one file to do all of your different weights, all of your different slants, and you can make them grungy with some of them if you want, if you know some C Ss s.

Yeah. So loads of cool stuff, I think, which is turning my head there. So it feels like the game changers are going back to the code a bit.

[00:34:12] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, your point about the W3C, I always think I've said that wrong. The W3C and the browser manufacturers all basically being in cahoots now. When we began, there was just this turf war, wasn't there? Where you really couldn't expect any browser to behave like any other. They all had their own different rendering engines, and it was horrible.

Whereas now, basically every browser is going to show you the same thing. And now the focus is moving on to... Making the bits of the page do innovative and interesting things. And the grid example that you just gave is really curious and fascinating. I guess my thing is, if you've settled on a no code solution, let's say that's a WordPress page builder, you can you can skill up on that.

And it may have limitations in that, you can't do the, move the thing from the footer to the header very straightforwardly. But then, maybe you don't want to do that. But the thing that I mentioned in our show, no it's not related to this but I'm going to bring it up now, is do you have this feeling that what you're getting into, the grid and what have you is a bit like waiting for a bus in that you've just got on the grid bus and now you're...

We're in 1st gear, 2nd gear, 3rd gear, you're moving off down the road. But behind you are a bunch of people who didn't get on that boss, and they're waiting for the next thing to come along. And sure enough, it will, right? It's definitely gonna happen that Grid will be superseded by something shiny, new, better, whatever.

Possibly worse, I don't know. But do you have a bit of fear of that? You get into this one way of doing things and all of a sudden... You've got a dependency on that and,

[00:35:52] David Waumsley: well,

[00:35:52] Nathan Wrigley: that brings.

[00:35:53] David Waumsley: well, It's happened, hasn't it? We've gone from tables to floats to flex grid, and you have to relearn it. But my thinking is the way I'm looking at it now is that there is a difficulty you want to avoid. I would say you want to avoid frameworks unless you really need them and they're justified and they often are, and a page builder, a no code solution could be right for the circumstances.

If you want to knock something up. That does, because not all of the web is about building a website that's going to change over a period of time. Some things are just landing pages for a certain thing and it might be the quick way. But I see it this way really is that the road we're on is set by the W3C.

That is the web. So when we jump on a framework which takes some of that spec and makes it in an easy way to do, it's like jumping on a bus. But you go on that bus, so I'm walking along with my W3C very slowly, having to learn this stuff, taking it all in slowly. It has to change as it goes along, there's bumps in the road.

But it's just this one path that everybody has to be on. If they're going to be on the web, it's as simple as that. And then by the side of it are potentially like the page builders are their own frameworks. Things like in CSS, we've got them with bootstrap and tailwind things that are like a bus that will pick you up and get you there a bit quicker.

But the problem is with those buses, eventually they will always break down somewhere. So the person walking along the road could end up. At the end point faster than the people who keep jumping on different

[00:37:26] Nathan Wrigley: It's the tortoise and the hare thing, isn't it? Yeah.

[00:37:29] David Waumsley: it is. And I think that's the thing and I think, there is, you can't learn everything.

There's always going to be in, clients are going to want something dynamic. So there's going to be a dependency on some third party for me to do it. So it can't be all holier than thou on the, no, on the using code only, it's just not impossible. But I think we have to reflect, I feel, on The frameworks we depend on and whether we're willing to accept that, they will go out of date because they are, they are going to, aren't they?

They're going off their own route separate to where the web or the W3C is going with its spec.

[00:38:09] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. I guess there's no crystal ball gazing here. You might have a insight into the next six months, but beyond that, it's anybody's guess. Who knows what is being concocted in somebody else's mind today that might take over the entire web and the way that we do things in the future. You've got the next question here is no code a threat to developers?

And I'm curious to see what you think about that. I'm, I don't even know. What developers in inverted commas, so by that people who are really skilled in all sorts of things, not just word pressy things. I don't even know what they think about WordPress, whether or not they even wanna be part of WordPress.

There certainly seems to have been a shift recently in the last three or four years of some very notable WordPress developers who have decided they wanna move out of. WordPress. I don't know if that's got anything to do with the way it was going with page builders and things like that. I just don't

[00:39:06] David Waumsley: Well, so, you

[00:39:06] Nathan Wrigley: know.

[00:39:07] David Waumsley: Developers like an environment like GitHub or something, they like to work in their code editors anyway. Gutenberg was good for them for dynamic stuff at the time, but it might be not their preferred environment. I think, to be honest, probably no code is a threat to developers, like a calculator is a threat to mathematicians.


[00:39:26] Nathan Wrigley: Haha, good.

[00:39:27] David Waumsley: if only your. If that's the level of what your development is, it's basically just, factual stuff, it's just, but I think, in most trades at the top end of it, there's always going to be some creative thinking looking at a, solving a problem in context, and understanding.

So that's for me where that goes. We might as well just, because the next question after that one is really, they're both connected in some ways. Is AI then a threat to no code? And we could go on for hours from this one.

[00:40:03] Nathan Wrigley: Oh boy, I think we could do a whole episode, but you kick us off.

[00:40:08] David Waumsley: yeah we've talked about it before, so we have different you're more worried about it than I am, because I sent the thing.

It's that creative thinking. So it's in the same way that no code is not going to be a threat to developers because there'll always need to be some custom solutions that are creative, that are ongoing, I think, for people. And so I think no, and I think AI is the same. I think at the moment it's not very good.

And I take your point that it's going to improve and it will be hard to distinguish between what a human would do. But I still think as language evolves itself. As a human thing that I don't think, I'm not sure that artificial intelligence can always do it. So I just think with all the developers and the, there's that kind of human thing that we know about understanding something in context.

So if something could write the code for me, like page builders, his biggest flaw. Now in the time of CSS grid is that you take it page by page where if you understand the concept of CSS grid, you will, you probably think about the whole site and how it's structured and you'll just have a line or two, the most efficient way to be able to change the layouts for individual pages or groups of pages.

And I think when a AI tries to take a write some code, it's never going to have the full context of either how it's going to be used, how it needs to connect with the audience. To solve the kind of problems or within the whole of the system. And I think that's what developers and that's, so I think both of them are the same, they have a weakness.

[00:41:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I know what you mean in that I have this vague hope and belief, that the humans will always... Have a place and that, they'll always be better at inspecting things and checking for the other human's desires are being met. In other words, the client, the human, their desires are being met and the outcomes are in line with what they want and can tweak it all.

My, my slight concern is that when you make a mistake in code, only you get better from it. The rest of humanity doesn't. So you have to learn everything by yourself. Whereas with the AI, all of the AI gets better. So it can then churn out the correct solution to everybody based upon one person's error.

In other words, if somebody reports to

[00:42:40] David Waumsley: Yeah


[00:42:41] Nathan Wrigley: That no, that code doesn't work, you need to do it this way. Everybody else who makes that request will get the updated version henceforth. That's the principle behind it. And I'm less sanguine about it. I do think that there's going to be a moment where it is good enough that it starts to undermine.

The promise that web designers have web developers, web designers, whatever, such that it just undermines that there's an industry there, and as soon as 10%, 20%, 30% of the people are out of work, it's going to become more and more difficult. Because I feel like the AI will just get better. I'm a bit afraid of what it's going to be capable of.

And I think I, my, my thoughts are that we need to put the brakes on a little bit and and figure out what it's going to do, because I think a lot of the things that we do are in the purview, even though we wouldn't like to believe it because we think we're. We've got this unique talent. I think a lot of what we do, especially if we're not using code we're using like templates and page builders.

I think a lot of that will be in the purview. I saw a really interesting article in, on, I think it was the make. wordpress. org channel the other day. It was an Anne McCarthy piece where she was speculating with a video, what that might look like in Gutenberg. The the idea was you gave it a text prompt and then it just gave you back a load of different possible block patterns.

That might suit that brief. So I can't remember what it was, but let's say, I don't know. I've got a grocery store and I want to sell my my fruit and veg to the world and you click a button and it just gives you 10 or 20 different patterns that you can then dump into your website and it, it'll do all that in the space of a few moments.

It will be editable by humans at that point, which is great, but it is doing a lot of work. And I guess my fear is that it's just doing so much work that it undermines the rest of us. It undermines the credibility of us and our ability to have an industry even. Crikey, that was a lot, sorry.

[00:44:55] David Waumsley: No, it's good. And I think, I can't disagree with you. It's going to kill out. It's going to kill a lot of people to doing stuff. I do think, as I was saying before, it's why partly, I guess I understand this is coming both no code is a bit of a threat to what I do. And also.

AI. And it's why I tried to move a little bit to this kind of relationship where we just start with the client and say, okay, my job is just to make this technology reach people you want to reach to, and we can communicate them and to do that, we need to walk in their shoes and do our best to try and understand their journey and their needs and answer them in the way that they need.

And I think that's where AI. And I think, the equivalent is being done, when you see that, I often had a view of code developers as being, kind of people who just had pizza in some kind of dungeon environment or something, churning out code. But, the very, the other top end they're real thinkers, they're real philosophers

[00:45:56] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, yeah, yeah,

[00:45:56] David Waumsley: Psychology.

And I think. That's the, that's where I've tried to aim for, because, when you are designing, you're putting kind of copy, which you can spend ages thinking, that's not the right word, that just doesn't sum it up, this, that you're backwards and forwards with the client over it, and then trying to pick that right image, and I just don't think AI is ever going to do it, or, but even you would still have the job of monitoring, even if it picked it in the first place, and interpreting what, how the humans were doing that, and I just don't think AI will be able to do that.

Yeah. Interpretation of how people are using the technology.

[00:46:32] Nathan Wrigley: it's interesting because I think the worst possible outcome... is that humans end up simply checking what the AI did. Can you imagine the joylessness of that work? Where you basically, you go to an AI, you give it a text prompt or whatever, and it... Pushes stuff back at you and you just have to check if it's okay.

It's Oh, there's no, you don't get the creative juices flowing at all. You're just some sort of, it just seems like a really joyless work. And I think you're doing, I think you, you are insulating yourself against this in a good way because of the fact that you're getting back into the code and you're going to be able to justify all of the things that we talked about a moment ago, the accessibility and the environment and all of those.

You're going to, you're going to have more strings to your bow in that case, which I think is sensible of you.

[00:47:25] David Waumsley: I think, it's just playing into what I suppose, I did psychology degree. So I suppose it's more in keeping with that, given that I can't do code very well, it's a chore for me, it's better that I do. I'm only doing the code so it can help me do the psychology side of the things.

And, it's a means to an end always with all of these things. So you can't, it's a funny thing. I think no code. isn't a lie in the sense that I think it can help a lot of people in lots of different ways. But I think for me, it's, it often results in the fact that you probably do need to get back to the code.

If you do it for any length of time, I think you end up there because of the empowerment that gives you rather than, because it's not really no code or code, it's either your code or somebody else's.

[00:48:13] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Interesting. We've got a whole bunch of other things that we could

[00:48:16] David Waumsley: Oh, sorry.

[00:48:17] Nathan Wrigley: No. I feel that we've touched on them because we had things like whether it's short lived and we talked about the bosses. I still think even if to you in particular, and me, that really doesn't do much in terms of building client websites at all anymore, I still think WordPress is quite exciting.

I still think there's a lot of a lot of interest. There seems to be a big crowd of people who don't want to get involved in code. They want to buy a, they want to buy a solution, which fixes all the things for them. A quick plugin fix for a problem that they've got. And, the rise of Elementor, as we talked about towards the beginning of the show, just demonstrates that there is need for it, there's commercial need for it as well.

So I don't know, maybe that'll slow down at some point in the future, but seemingly there's a still a very big crowd. of people who want to be able to do things without even thinking about the code. And actually, you only have to look at the TV commercials for things like Squarespace and Wix. And what is it that their strap line is?

They always talk about the fact that you don't need to own, know any code. That is their big selling point. In fact, it's THE selling point. Which indicates that's what the people want.

[00:49:36] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. Do you know what you've prompted me for? What's almost another debate about this. You just wonder whether the demand for no code is, do you ever actually we should save this for another thing. We didn't talk about what we're doing next, but I have an idea and that would link into what I wanted to say is whether you feel a personal affront that somebody has built sites by no code

[00:49:57] Nathan Wrigley: Oh,


[00:49:57] David Waumsley: Is it a bad, is it an indictment on really the way that we've treated clients, if you like in building their sites. So they're looking for no code cause they hate us.

[00:50:08] Nathan Wrigley: let's pin that one then

[00:50:09] David Waumsley: Yeah.

[00:50:10] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, let's do that one next time or at least in the near future. Maybe we'll jump to a different, but that sounds like a, that sounds like a really reasonable, yeah. What is your instinctive reaction to a site as soon as you find out that it was built without any code whatsoever? It was just point, click, drag or AI. Let's throw that in as well.

[00:50:29] David Waumsley: Are they doing it because we've let them down as web designers?

[00:50:31] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Okay. That sounds good. All right. I'll you in a couple of weeks in that case. Thanks for that.

[00:50:36] David Waumsley: Oh, and I enjoyed it. Thanks.

[00:50:37] Nathan Wrigley: Well, I hope that you enjoy that. Always a pleasure chatting to my friend, David Waumlsey, in this case about no code being a lie. If you've got any thoughts on that, please head over to WP builds.com. Search for episode number 337. And leave us a comment there.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by Go Daddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we do thank GoDaddy Pro for their ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

As I said at the top of the show, we will be having a week off. So there'll be no this weekend WordPress show or no podcast next week, but we'll be back the week after that. If you fancy watching some episodes of recent webinars series, head to WP builds.com, search for the archives menu and look for the demos archive, they'll be in there.

Myself, Mark Westguard, Patrick Posner, doing things recently about their plugins. Hopefully you'll stay safe. I'll be back in a couple of weeks. Cheesy music fading in. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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  1. It takes A LOT of code to build a no-code tool! To me, that’s the main reason why No Code is a lie.

    Also, as you touch on in the show, no-code tools are enablers for designers and users who have not taken any time in educating themselves on things like UX or accessibility, and so they create monsters. Webflow is tragic in that sense, because all the designers who use it now actually think they’re bona-fide web designers.

  2. Personally, I believe that the “no code” market is primarily targeted towards “users” rather than “developers.” As a developer, I do find value in embracing the “no code” approach because it significantly simplifies my work. However, it remains crucial for me, as a developer, to have a good understanding of how the underlying code functions in order to develop effectively, right?

    While the “no code” approach streamlines the process, I still need to complement it with custom development using HTML, CSS, JS, or even creating my own custom Blocks with React. This enables me to achieve better results and tailor solutions to my specific needs. Despite the convenience of “no code” options, I recognise the importance of in-depth coding knowledge for delivering optimal solutions.

    However, now with Gutenberg in WordPress, the “no code” approach empowers “users” to create visually appealing websites without any coding knowledge, leveraging the ease and versatility of “no code” tools. So for me, I don’t think “No code is a lie” 🙂

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