UI Vs. Code
Like most people working in the web industry I have spent a lot of time learning how to code. I’ve amassed countless hours in text editors creating websites, games, mini-projects and feel pretty comfortable in that environment. However, the more I know, the more I seem enjoy taking a step back and letting someone (or more accurately something) else do most of the hard work. This is particularly pleasurable if there is a nice UI builder I can use rather than repeating the same simple tasks over and over.
There has been a growth of these UI builders in recent months and they seem to be gaining popularity. A quick search for Bootstrap builders returns a bunch of results such as Layout.it, Shoelace and Jetstrap to name a few. There are even offline editors such as Pinegrow which boasts features such as ‘live multi-page editing, CSS styling and smart components for Bootstrap, Foundation, AngularJS and WordPress’.
As a WordPress user, there are a number of page builders out there such as Beaver Builder, Page Builder and Layers. There are even builders being built into theme such as the Cornerstone builder which ships as part of the X theme.
Similarly, most email marketing service providers feature built in builder such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and DotMailer. These tools are often very useful since writing HTML emails by hand can be very tedious and involve a lot of copy and pasting. Personally I’ve quite enjoyed using Litmus for this particular job.
Regardless of which one you choose, the thing that makes a really good builder is one which allows you to easily nip under the hood and edit the code. Although these tools are pretty good (and getting better every day) there are always points where you want to do something a little out of the ordinary and need to get down and dirty with some code to fix the problem. You should also be mindful of the quality of code coming out of these builders and it’s always a good idea to review what has been created and alter it where necessary. I’m sure many people will frown upon tools like these, but in my opinion as long as you’re aware of the risks and are mindful about where and when you use them then they’re a welcome asset to the development toolkit.