Page builders are the new Notepad

Twenty-five years ago, I saw my first website and wanted to make my own. The point of entry was Notepad. I followed a tutorial, learned some HTML, signed up for Geocities, and figured out how to publish. It wasn’t the easiest to learn, but over a couple of weeks, I put the pieces together and got something online.

I was fascinated, so I kept tweaking. And learning. And my first simple sites led to a career in web development. 

But the internet no longer wants my hand-coded, static HTML sites. Setting up a website for me now involves dozens of technologies, tools, and concepts, and often takes an hour or hours to even get set up and running. 

Recently I started thinking about what is the modern starting point for new web developers?

A common product I’m happy to see a lot lately is the “page builder”: web-based software that helps you set up whole websites without needing to know much tech. 

They get a bad rap sometimes, but In many ways, they offer the “notepad” starting point for getting started online. And as I’m teaching more people how to set up their first websites, the parallels become more clear. 

You have an idea and do some searching online to find out how to do it. You read some guides and eventually pick a starting point. You think the tool in front of you will let you bring your idea to life. After some time, experimenting, and lots of iteration, you get close, but it’s not perfect.

And just like our first experiments with Notepad twenty-five years ago, some people will give up, some people will be content with what they create, and some will continue to tweak. Could a little CSS make this fit my vision? What’s this javascript thing? They’ll slowly explore new tech and expand their skills to achieve what they want. 

I’m already seeing it with some of my students. I’m excited for them to become the next generation of web developers, regardless of the starting point.