My friends Jerry and Cord have launched a new website that’s worth checking out if you’re at all involved with the creation or maintenance of websites—and these days that’s a lot of us. The site, called ReadyMadeWeb, keeps you up-to-date on software tools for building a modern website quickly and cheaply. They explain how to use venerable tools like FeedBurner and Flickr, and they review newer tools to see how they stack up.
ReadyMadeWeb meshes with the themes of this blog in a couple of ways. First, many of the tools Cord and Jerry talk about represent disruptive innovation in the software industry. For example, they have a post comparing GMail to hosted Outlook and find that GMail is dramatically cheaper. And this isn’t just a matter of more aggressive pricing on Google’s part. GMail is cheaper than Outlook because it has a fundamentally different architecture and business model: one that dispenses with dedicated servers and expensive tech support personnel in favor of web-based administration.
It’s common for web design firms to offer to build you a custom, one-of-kind platform for your website at premium price. As you may already know, these custom solutions are often too custom, straying away from industry standards and making your website so custom that’s it’s compatible with little else. To make matters worse, the company that just build your white elephant has to maintain it, because no other web developer would know what to do with it. This sort of approach locks customers into relationships with contractors who can hold them hostage for whatever labor and maintenance charges they choose.
The ReadyMadeWeb philosophy helps you avoid this sort of trap. So long as you choose widely-used, open-source software you’ll never be stuck with a bad contractor as there are thousands of developers who work with these platforms. By choosing open source, you’ll also gain the benefits that come along with joining a community of hundreds of thousands of users and developers using the same platform—that means countless pre-made designs and functionality add-ons along with user groups, forums, and to help you use your site without the help of a developer.
Choosing proprietary software means ceding a chunk of autonomy to a third party. This isn’t always a bad decision—in some cases, the proprietary option is just the best one available. But I do think people tend to underestimate how valuable it is to have software that’s not only “free as in price” but “free as in freedom.” The costs of extricating yourself from the clutches of an incompetent or avaricious software vendor can be much higher than the sticker price on the software itself.
Of course, you won’t find much of this kind of preaching on ReadyMadeWeb. The blog is focused on the nuts and bolts of running a successful website on a budget. The advice looks excellent, and I encourage you to check it out.