29 October 2005

I haven’t had a holiday for nearly six months. As a result, I’m pretty much done in – making it through working days only to collapse at home in front of bad TV. This is not, if you know me, how I wish to spend my time.

So I’ve got a whole week off, and seven days in Paris – a city to which I’ve never been. Can’t wait. Will be back in a bit, no doubt, to bang on about web development, videogames, and the usual. Back soon.

OK, so maybe I was a little hasty with my earlier post. We are emphatically not all developers now. The hyperbole ran away with me, and I apologise for that. But there was a nugget of truth in there.

If the Rails-revolution (and that includes all those things which perform similar functions to Rails, even if they themselves are not rails) has a real-world analogue, it’s that of the far eastern bespoke tailors. You see their ads in the papers; they fly over to London for fittings in hotels, and then make a bespoke suit for you in their workshops back in Hong Kong. You end up paying the price of a decent off-the-peg suit (about £200) for something tailored to you. Of course, it’s not quite Saville Row, but it’s still a darn sight better than a generic off-the-peg model.

And this is what the rapid-development-frameworks give to small businesses.

A small business wanting to serve the global market might consider, say, an online shop as part of its web presence. A small, local web-development firm are contracted to build one. A long while ago, said web shop built a fairly substantial (and customizable) online store. They now use this work as a basis for future stores – pull another copy off the shelf, add a few tweaks, and serve to client. To create something uniquely tailored to the client’s needs would take a lot of time – and the client, being a small business, can’t afford the time a bespoke product takes.

So they receive delivery of a store that works, but has quirks that they could do without, features they don’t need, and might even lack features that could save them time; instead, they implement workflow-based workarounds to those missing features.

What the new frameworks do is put bespoke products (especially small bespoke products) within reach of small businesses. A small web-development firm isn’t going to be overworked, or take too long, to start from scratch and create a product that is 100% suitable for the client. The client will be more productive as a result. It’ll probably be a better product, too, as the product will always be built to current standards (instead of being last year’s model, dolled up).

Of course, in this new bespoke-economy, there will still be successful web-development firms who continue to serve up the old, 90%-suitable, off-the-shelf product. They might get away with this for a while, but not forever, because the bespoke economy serves everyone better – developers get the chance to constantly be creating new things; clients get the product they’ve always wanted.

So we’re not all developers, we’re just all in a position to get bespoke development at off-the-peg prices (or less). I mentioned ‘software scaling down to a userbase of one’. It’s not that this is possible – it always has been – that makes these new development frameworks exciting, but that it’s suddenly become very, very viable.