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I have some professional web development experience, and I always hard-coded all the HTML and CSS in simple text editors. I don't think the aesthetic appearance of my websites is bad at all, but when comparing to professional web designers' work, theirs always seem more professional in some way, and the designers I knew always did their design in Dreamweaver.

Of course I acknowledge that the designers have an experience and talent that I don't, and that is one great factor in why their design is better, but maybe the WYSIWYG editor is another factor.

I have been given the opportunity to learn Dreamweaver.

Is using Dreamweaver instead of a plain-text editor likely to improve my designs in any way, since I can abstract many technicalities away, and focus more on the aesthetics?

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    I think a good design or a bad design does not depend on the used software to create it. It depends of the idea behind the design ... – Mensch Apr 9 '15 at 9:47
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    Buying a great hammer won't make you a great carpenter. If you are a carpenter, a different hammer might help. – DA01 Apr 9 '15 at 15:18
  • @Kurt, As DA01 said. Tools are still important. If all you had is a paper and no pen, would you find having a pen to be a great help? – Pacerier Jul 6 '15 at 16:07
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Dreamweaver does not make you a better designer.

In the end, Dreamweaver is merely a tool and like any tool, you may or may not find it useful, but it never improves one's own aesthetic sense of design.

I've found no reason to use Dreamweaver over a solid text editor (BBEdit) and a browser. Throw in a bit of PHP and a server for testing and there's really no need for Dreamweaver at all. But that's my preference. Your milage may vary.

Dreamweaver can be very handy in a team workflow where many people are working on the same thing or pieces of the same thing. However, in a solitary designer/builder setting there's no imperative reason one needs to use Dreamweaver.

In addition, the WYSIWG portion of Dreamweaver can really create nightmare spaghetti code. Most people I've seen who use Dreamweaver effectively tend to shy away from editing in the layout view (WYSIWYG) and use the code view. The WYSIWYG aspect of Dreamweaver is actually the bad part if you care at all about nice, clean, solid, code.

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    I agree with everything you said. The only reason I use Dreamweaver is for the upload features: you can select random files from multiple arbitrary tree levels and upload them without having to dive in on a per-folder basis like a typical ftp client. Very helpful for php-based work with nested libraries and templates. I have never used the WYSIWYG functionality. – Yorik Apr 9 '15 at 15:01
  • Like Yorik, I've never used the WYSIWYG options. Along with decent upload features, I use it because it's really easy to live adjust the viewport side by side with static code, and click on rendered elements or strings of text to jump straight to them in the adjacent code interface. However, it's really just an advanced text editor for me, and I still test more in browsers. Nice answer overall, though I think it's sad that Dreamweaver has become synonymous with and infamous for it's WYSIWYG functionality. – Dom Apr 9 '15 at 19:38
  • I should add that DW CC 2014 is a complete fail for me. I use the original CC (2012/13). – Dom Apr 11 '15 at 14:15
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I have very little to add to @Matt's answer but here is my nugget. Personally, I have prohibited myself from using WYSIWYG editors (like Dreamweaver) because I think they make me a worse web designer. These are the reasons.

  • They make me go rusty, lazy and outdated very quickly. You would me amazed to see what code related knowledge was second nature for me when I started coding using notepad but became almost forgotten as soon as I started using WYSIWYG and did not have to type. I also never got the memos of the new things I could use (webfonts, PNG, etc..) so I kept using old techniques and wondering why other pages were so futuristic but mine were dusty old HTML.1
  • They generate inefficient code. This might be outdated, since I have not touched a WYSIWYG editor for a long time, but in the old days (circa Y2K) WYSIWYG editors used to bloat the code a lot. Extra tables anyone?
  • They make me slower. I found that very often WYSIWYG editors would include an artifact on my page that was puzzling and almost impossible to fix: columns with weird co-dependant widths was a good one. I would drag and click for hours, but it would just get stuck and it would not look like it should. When I fixed the one column, the one at the end would go crazy. This created much frustration and delays.
  • I had to baby-sit the code. Very often to fix a problem I had to end up going to the code and fixing buggy empty tags and all sorts of bad coding that was created by the editor. I started thinking that if I had to code it manually anyways, then why the heck I was using the WYSIWYG editor to start with.
  • They detach me from the technology. This might sounds like a good thing but at the end a web page is a highly technical creation. Being detached from its technical side did not lead me to make better design decisions but, on the other side, bad ones that might have been suitable for print applications but were outrageously inefficient for web applications.

Mind you, I come from a programming background and I do love programming, so I my take on it might be skewed.

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Visual editors or WYSIWYG editors are terrible.. The only true way to view a website is through the medium which is a browser. In regards to Dreamweaver I hate it and there are many reasons why:

  • If you're just learning code the best way to learn how to code is through something like notepad or Textedit which you say you're doing. For me when I code a website I always have two files open, one for HTML and one for CSS.
  • The terrible thing about Dreamweaver is that everything in development for Adobe is separated by application. Based on what you can do with one application that you can't do with another is a prime example. So if integration was better with Dreamweaver then it could be a viable tool.
  • Building on the last one Dreamweaver offers no, per my last look, ability for advanced grep.
  • It would almost appear that they are doing away with Dreamweaver with the new addition of Adobe Muse but that is just what I see based on the lack of scripting ability you see being utilized through the other Adobe products.
  • If you're not comfortable or are able to fully write code you are only hurting yourself with auto completion (For clarification I am not against auto completion at all I think it can be a great addition to a developers workflow. I am against a new user that does not comprehend or have the ability from memory to write HTML and CSS).

Now I think Dreamweaver has a lot of potential but that would take Adobe realizing they have an issue. If Dreamweaver implemented scripting or better utilization of grep or some type of scripting manner similar to JavaScript for InDesign then I could see using the software.

To build on what Scott has said I use and love BBEdit and I buy every version. From a price point BBEdit is 50 dollars and for that price it is worth it. This application is excellent in my web development because it allows me to go through and I can grep anything, I can run scripts created from Applescript on files or templates I've created because everything can be scripted against. If you can script against everything in an application then that is a sure fire way to speed up production. So in reality from a streamline process or an effective workflow Dreamweaver doesn't offer what BBEdit can do.

Ending the rant and going to answer your question but there is no reason for you to use Dreamweaver just because other good designers use it. That's sort-of jumping on a bandwagon. If you want better designs then you need to practice better at your code based on the question you're asking.

I did preach a lot about BBEdit but I would strongly suggest you step back and map out what your goals are and what you plan on doing in web design. I say step back because as a web designer you will be expected over time to be knowledgable in other realms of code that effect your designs like jQuery or if you're going to start designing and building CMSs you need to evaluate what application will suit you in the long run.

Also forgot to add in my workflow I also use Github for group projects and that can be added for free into BBEdit with an additional plugin. BBEdit also allows me to build within the terminal and run terminal commands which Dreamweaver cannot do. There are many beneficial plugins for free out there that are offered to expand on BBEdit which is another factor you should consider in using an application.

Such as:

To be fair to other great applications I would encourage looking at:

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Visual editors like dreamweaver are appealing to many people that think and work visually, but I think that while it make things easier for some people, it does not necessarily make their work better. I think the differences do not come from the software people use, but from the knowledge that is behind how they use their tools.

Professional designers have training in design principles (color, layout, contrast, hierarchy, etc.) If you want to make your designs better, focus on learning these, not new software.

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Being a graphic and web designer in a previous life now turned/ing developer and security specialist... I used to depend (way too much so) on such tools as Dreamweaver, but the honest truth is that all that is really needed is notepad/notepad++ and good solid coding skills, really good story-boarding and conceptualization of the purpose of the site, a good understanding of UX and UI design, some good aesthetics and design common sense, and throw in a bit of marketing prowess and you should be good to go.

Now, as a designer first and foremost, I am the biggest proponent to being or having an expert in the design area - and I think much can be said for being an expert in any one of those areas mentioned, like UX design or marketing. That's why more often than not, large companies will turn to a firm to design and market their site. A firm can take a team of experts in all those areas and put together pure greatness.

But... I must say, I sooo wish I had learned to code first. Good and great design is everywhere, and usually you can put together a decent site without being an expert; just do a bit of research and look at all of the millions of templates out there! But, being able to code it directly so you can control every bit of it and ensure every part works as it should is invaluable! Just a bit of advise from a designer turning coder, please, please, use a good photo editing software to make the images top-notch. The one thing that will ruin all the other great design elements is a bad image.

Now, on a smaller scale, there can be some uses for Dreamweaver, such as just whipping out a quick mock-up (next step in the storyboard process... and somewhat nicer to show clients if needed), but I'd only use that if you already knew the program well, and it can have a high learning curve if you don't use it or similar software every day. In addition it can end up like re-inventing the wheel because you would want to re-code everything from the ground up to save a lot of trouble in the future. I have to admit, I wish I knew tools such as Visual Studio, had some good database knowledge, and knew languages like Java, C#, ... like the back of my hand (and I'll get there someday soon)- but then you really have all the tools needed and can really blow 'em away! Sorry to go on forever, but hopefully the tidbits from my years of design experience (and the evolution of it) helps just a bit.

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I'm the OP, and though I got several great answers from you guys, I feel like adding the following points.

Tool does not improve sense of aesthetics, but may improve result

One important and useful (and obvious) statement is that a better tool does not improve the designer's sense of aesthetics.

However, that does not mean in itself that the designer will produce as good a design with one tool as with another. I have tried to find an analogy and the following, though silly, is the best I could come up with.

When struggling with technical challenges, one gets overexcited with even overcoming those, and fails to be critical of the actual quality of the design of the end result

I experienced this a few times. I struggle with some technical challenges like making div elements in HTML flow correctly, and this can take a really long time for me, both with trial and error and with reading tutorials. When I finally succeed, I feel proud and feel like I did a fantastic job. I feel my design is fantastic. Until I get back to it in a few days or weeks and realize that it doesn't really have the feel I want.

I suspected, that if I could do the same thing in WYSIWYG, my focus would be on the aesthetics themselves, instead of having my focus simply on overcoming obstacles, and I would have a more "correct" perception of my work.

It seems like from your answers, that this is not an issue for you guys, but I just wanted to clarify what I suspected here.

Time efficiency, goes a longer way, and allows trying more variations

I suspect that people work faster in WYSIWYG. This obviously means that if only fx 15 hours is allocated for the design, the designer can make a better design in that timespan. But even if there is unlimited time, like in some hobby projects, the designer can try out many more variations before getting tired and losing the enthusiasm.

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