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WYSIWYG means ‘what you see is what you get’. In the context of a website it means a form of text input that allows some formatting similar to word processing software (see the above image). So unlike a regular text area you can do great things like bold, italic, hyperlinks, tables, etc. More advanced editors will even let you create forms, tables and upload images. Such editors are great as they allow people with little or no web design knowledge to add content that is far more interesting than plain text to their site. Sometimes though, a WYSIWYG editor can give you too much control—and lead to problems. So here are some things you should know about your site’s WYSIWYG editor.

Giving design control someone who isn’t a designer

If you don’t have an eye for design you could end up creating a page that is out of keeping with the rest of the site. The tendency can be to go overboard and use text sizes, colours and typefaces that aren’t used elsewhere in the site. It ends up giving your site an amateur feel. A good web designer will configure the editor so that it only allows you the options you need.

Paste from Word and other applications

There is a tendency with WYSIWYG editors to paste large chunks of text from other applications. The editor tries to copy all the styles as closely as possible. You end up with a similar result to that mentioned in the previous section: an inconsistent and amateur web page. Many editors have a ‘paste as plain text’ option (see below). This removes all extraneous style information from the text. A WYSIWYG editor works better when using its native style controls so always input text directly or paste as plain text.

User input

If your site has an editor on the front–end and you don’t screen their input correctly they could very easily upload malicious script information to your site. This could cause the site to display incorrectly and/or cause visitors’ browsers to issue a warning when your site is visited. Ask your web designer to remove all <script> data from user input (they’ll know what that means).


Adding rich content to your site is a necessity these days. If you’re worried about using one there are alternatives. One such option is to use tag–based editing. This is done as plain text and uses a simple tag based system for some basic formatting such as bold and italic.

For example, this…

This is [b]bold[/b] and this is [i]italic[/i].

…would render as…

This is bold and this is italic.

It doesn’t have the ease of use a proper editor has and it is much more limited but if you’re concerned about the quality and security of the content on your website, it may not be a bad idea.

For help with your website call me on 07843 483 078 or get a free quote online.

Tim Bennett is a Leeds-based web designer from Yorkshire. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.