How best to teach web design?

As a web designer and teacher, I am in a perpetual quandry about how best to teach web design. Do you throw students in the deep end by introducing them to hand-coding graphic mockups with HTML & CSS?

As a web designer and teacher, I am in a perpetual quandry about how best to teach web design.

Do you throw students in the deep end by introducing them to hand-coding graphic mockups with HTML & CSS? Or do you gently lower them into the warm waters of a WordPress installation and tinkering around with themes?

A large amount depends on who your students are. Neil from Beam Twenty3 teaches graphics/web design to 16-18 year olds, and he has taken the Adobe Flash route, as his priority is teaching the visual design process.

I have started web design workshops teaching artists who want a web site they can update easily, so I've chosen to use the WordPress publishing platform.

There is another route, which is a WYSIWYG HTML/CSS editor, in the glorious tradition of Adobe G oLive and Dreamweaver. The idea is that the user can design, build and maintain a static website without any knowledge of coding.

BlueGriffon is the new Free Software player in this market, arising from the ashes of Nvu, authored by the same chap Daniel Glazman.

BlueGriffon screenshot
Screenshot of BlueGriffon

There are some very interesting aspects to BlueGriffon: the fact that it's built on the Firefox web rendering engine Gecko, that it uses commercial add-ons to generate income, and that it's available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

Despite it's polished interface and cross-platform compatibility, I am still unsure as to how useful a WYSIWYG HTML editor really is.

If you want to keep a website up-to-date, then surely a CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! would be your best option?

If you want to learn the web design process, then surely you're better of learning a vector illustration package like Inkscape and how to hand-code HTML & CSS (and, to be honest, JavaScript) using a text editor such as Notepad++ or Geany?

Where I can see a place for a WYSIWYG editor is to allow people to create cleanly formatted content for the web. For too many years, Microsoft Word has wasted hours in the struggle to copy and paste content onto a website.

Personally, I use Markdown, a lightweight markup language. But this requires translation into HTML using a converter such as Showdown and still requires a bit of learning.

Maybe if people started creating documents for the web in BlueGriffon rather than Word? Or if BlueGriffon could act as a WYSIWYG interface to common CMSes, along the lines of TinyMCE but on the users own computer? Imagine that, a word processor that processes words without adding buckets of gunk!