Editor’s note: Dennis Mitzner lives in Tel Aviv and writes about startups, technology trends and politics.
Code-free web design platforms are an increasingly popular tool among web designers. Companies behind these tools promise a design experience that doesn’t require any coding skills or the need for an expensive third-party developer.
Giants of the DIY website industry, Wix and Squarespace, promise a hassle-free, almost effortless ability for anyone to design a site within minutes. Unlike the two giants, new SaaS platforms such as Webydo and Webflow target professional web designers who have no interest or patience for coding.
With Webydo, the user must have a design background working with software such as Adobe Photoshop in order to design sites from scratch, whereas Wix users with no background in design can create a site by modifying an existing template. Tel Aviv-based Webydo was founded to empower the web designer and subsequently diminish the role of the developer in the design process.
“We initially felt enslaved to an old process that depended on developers to manually convert graphic design into handwritten code,” said Shmulik Grizim, CEO and co-founder of Webydo. “This professional process, which had not changed much since the 90’s, was slow, expensive and cumbersome. Consequently, we hired a group of mathematicians, engineers and developers who developed a revolutionary code generator.”
It’s an industry norm for a large chunk of the design budget to go into development. After the designer submits the design, developers start working. This is often time-consuming and tends to have a bloating effect on the budget.
Webydo, Webflow and Adobe Muse provide a service that makes the outside developer redundant. The distinguishing feature between companies such as Webydo and Webflow comes down to responsiveness and how elements on the canvas act in relation to each other.
“Responsive design is the main issue. Companies that offer code-free web templates, need to choose between two approaches: fluid or adaptive,” said Nir Barlev, product manager at Webydo.
With the fluid approach, the elements are arranged automatically according to the screen of a given device. Webydo uses an adaptive approach (the designer has full control over the position of each element independently) and Webflow has opted for the fluid approach.
“The main weakness of adaptive design is that elements do not automatically arrange themselves in a responsive manner, which means that the designer needs to manually make sure that elements work in mobile, tablet and desktop,” Barlev said. “That makes their designs to be pixel accurate. With the fluid approach, all elements move on the canvas in direct relation to one another. To move one, you need to move all.”
Regardless of minor yet important differences in interfaces, Webydo and Webflow are trying to reverse the trend that has seen developers dominate the industry. Now, the two companies are slowly helping designers take control over their work and build independent web design businesses and eventually bring their vision to life, independently.
But are Webydo and Webflow putting developers out of business?
“No, we’re not — the world is still in great need of developers,” Grizim said. “We’re just taking the repetitive, Sisyphean work out of the equation. We need developers to create new widgets and plugins, and many other creative coding tasks.”
Whether SaaS design startups will be able to modify and eventually disrupt the standing of developers in the design process is an interesting question and will ultimately be answered by designers themselves.