I always remember speaking to a gas fitter who came to install a new boiler at my house once about how things in his trade had changed. He said ten years ago it would take a couple of men a morning or even the best part of a day to replace a boiler. Nowadays it’s different, condensing boilers are much more compact, lighter and produce less waste, in fact only water! and can be installed by one fitter in a few hours. Advances in the technologies used to produce these boilers and in the boilers themselves make this possible.
Thinking on what that guy said made me realise that this is a pretty good analogy for producing products using web technologies. It doesn’t take a team of four or five developers a couple of months to produce a commerce site or at the least the framework for one, it should be a single man job and it should take a fraction of that time. Why? two reasons;
1) The common problems / tasks encountered when building something like a commerce site have been solved already. There are open source projects I can download now and within 30 minutes I can have a bare bones commerce site up and running ready to be tailored for a client.
2) The tools have changed, dramatically. Ok, this is kind of an extension to point one, but I can’t remember the last time I had to write SQL to perform CRUD operations on a database record or escape content for displaying on a web page.
Personally, if I am building a content managed site, I opt for Radiant, very flexible with a great community of people building plugins too. For commerce sites I would go for Spree, another Rails solution which again seems to have a very active community of developers surrounding it.
I think its really important we take time to regularly review how our industry, from a technology point of view, is changing and make adaptations to how we perform our day to day work rather than sticking to one platform or one set of tools just because its the way we have always done it. For a sector that deals in fast evolving technology, I think a lot of us a very reluctant to keep moving forward.