Thirteenth – tools, aids, and coding

The latest reading, “Useful Coding Tools and JavaScript Libraries For Web Developers” by Vitaly Friedman in Smash Magazine, is a true head spinner. Friedman gives a very long list, and on the top, he apologizes for the length, of – as the title suggests – his list of all kinds of developers’ tools. The list is simply amazing especially for someone who is still a newcomer in this realm. The question to answer pries into the outcome of such a bounty of site-builder tools: do they help professionals, or they introduce coding-illiterates and their poorly designed sites into the market and the web? I think the question, like most very educative questions, carries the answer in itself. However, I also think, not every item in the list supports the argument that these tools make it not only possible but easy to build a website without actually knowing how to code one.

First thing first. I think, tools like the tab generator exemplify how to create something for the web through a bypass around coding. It is like to travel to a country where the language is unknown to the visitor. The visitor buys a travel dictionary that lists ready made sentences. If he or she does not want to have a cup of coffee and a croissant for breakfast as the dictionary suggests, he or she will remain hungry unless he or she learns how to ask properly and pronounce properly bacon and eggs sunny side up with a large glass of orange juice without ice.

Most important lesson of this analogy is that by being able to ask for coffee and croissant as the dictionary instructs, does not make one know how to speak that language. By being able to generate tabs through the aforementioned tools make one capable to operate this tool and create tags. Not to program a website.

Friedman’s list includes tools that help making one’s website accept credit card payments, insert interactive maps, advertise the launching of one’s website. There is also one that helps creating patterns, which can be much more convenient than to use an image and turn it into a pattern (the option I have in my drawing program).

Bottom line is that there are tools that for example allow the programmer not to learn how to draw maps and still insert them into a site and there are others that do the core programming, like where the tabs go, instead of the site creator.

Unlike a baby learning to speak the tongue of his or her mother, when somebody learns a language as a foreign language, he or she gains a view on how that collection of verbal tools works. This is why learning HTML, or for that matter any other computer language, gives more than just the knowledge of the sum of the individual tags that make up the language. It enables the programmer to view a site both as a system of elements and also as a complete whole. By using those programming aids, a site can be built, however, this vision can never be acquired.

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