The Internets are easy


Tim recently wrote the web is tough and websites are becoming complicated tangles of various technologies that would make a Soviet spy blush. This post started as a brief comment that ended in an aspx error page. Take it with a grain of salt. While there’s a lot to be said for the continued issues of strategy and content, from a coding perspective, most cases can do with less and less custom heavy lifting running on a company’s own box.

Coding is so pre2k

Let’s face it, the web is getting a lot easier for everyone. You can build a quality website integrating various web services without knowing a single bit of code. And knowing just enough if/else’s and for/while’s to be dangerous can result in a rapid beta launch that gets dugg instantly. A stable, high quality web applications doesn’t have to be a Microsoft driven mass of code. Or ride Rails for that matter. It can be a mix of various open source and third party web services.

The obvious example: grab a WordPress blog, find a theme, change the logo, add a Flickr/YouTube widget so everyone can post photos/videos, google for some Google Maps code to copy/paste and drop in an RSS feed of relevant news to your industry. Done in a days work of a “webmaster”. Already hooked up with an ad agency that delivers stunning creative but don’t have the chops to HTMLify it? People do that for cheaper than any agency will.

Or maybe your site needs more social networking features. Sign up with Ning and customize to taste. Maybe some Jott tie-ins? Don’t forget the customer service forums and shopping carts to make money from something other than ads (not that you need it given the low cost of your site launch).

As the semantic richness of the web expands, pulling data from various sources will continue to require less .NET and more copy/paste. Already data on many sites is available for parsing and presentation on other domains. The Microsoft Spaces crew recently developed an inspiring Live Clipboard which allows for copy/paste of structured data. No need to mark up that HTML on your own. Third party widgets continue to get more and more sophisticated offering greater value, perhaps even better content than what you could hire help to create. Consider Newsvine’s recent Elections Vine. Continued standard awareness keeps widget code up to par.

No single person

This approach doesn’t suggest one person can build all these features or have the technical knowledge to even understand how all of them work. Rather, these services are basic enough from the user perspective that one person can wrangle them all into a custom website that has the appearance of amazing technical wizardry. A website and it’s data doesn’t have to come from one source. Its various components can be distributed across the web and various services pushing the data.


So the practicality of that may be a bit exaggerated but the point is that a lot of really strong web applications and services exist that can assist those with very limited technical knowledge and site budget to create a web presence that compares with that which an agency could provide. Custom applications dealing with already existing infrastructure are never going to be able to get away with this approach and that’s when an agency is invaluable. But there are other very viable options to getting product photos and news updates on your website, whether business to business, user to user or any combination thereof.


  1. elan 20070708

    There is a lot of truth to this, and there are so many options now than there ever have been for being able to get a site out the door by leveraging work thats already done for you. My first reaction to this posting was that you were potentially suggesting that our job security as web agency could be in jeopardy with technology moving in this direction of custom component integration.

    I think one point that neither of us addressed in our articles is the issue of intense customization. There are plenty of clients our there who need solutions that simply have to be built from scratch, as nothing like it currently exists. It seems like most of the time for us these are integrations with other solutions like hosted e-mail marketing software, or content management systems. These are usually pretty easy, and maybe in some cases, it could be done in-house and not necessarily by an agency.

    Sometimes these integrations are difficult, complex and have very specific requirements.

    I think what I was trying to get at more with my post was that the bar keeps getting higher for what constitutes a solid, attractive web presence, and it requires more and more resources to get there than it did 5 – 10 years ago. Whether or not a client could do it in-house or not depends more on their requirements.

    P.S., still trying to track down that comment bug ;) That’s probably what I get for choosing to build something from scratch when there are plenty of solutions out there that can do it better.

  2. elan 20070708

    Whoops, just re-read and realized you did address this point at the end of the article. I just missed it:

    “Custom applications dealing with already existing infrastructure are never going to be able to get away with this approach and that’s when an agency is invaluable”

  3. waytoocrowded 20070708

    Thankfully, for our us, there are those massive projects that are too customized for any sort of plug-and-play services and I’m certainly not trying to deny that. I just think there are a lot of marketing departments out there jumping into buying a website not knowing enough about the options or what a good webmaster might be capable of or the fact that there is nothing to be afraid of in linking to content outside your domain/not in your control.

    Is there a better word than webmaster? Man, that’s dirty.

  4. puddingcups 20070713

    speak for yourselves…. stupid computers.
    ps-thanks for letting me bother you and help me know the difference between a driver and software… now i bet a lot of you are laughing at how.. you so called “easy internet” is more confusing to people than you think. i didn’t even know what the difference was. oh yeah, and by the way it worked!!! i downloaded it and now my printer runs fine…. later geeks

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