It has been a long time since I was involved in creating a site from scratch, and only then as part of a large team.
I’m in the process of building a site for a community that I’m interested in and it has been an education. Most of the lessons have been positive. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about this on MediaSavvy. Especially once I’m ready to go public with my project.
Generally, the quality of the tools that are available to site builders is extraordinarily high. And a lot of great ones are free and open-source. And a lot of the others are cheap. Not to mention the fact that even the more-expensive tools take advantage of open-source platforms: Linux, Apache, mysql, and PHP.
You don’t have to be an ubergeek to put it all together, either. Everything is polished and has a enough customization options that you can avoid coding if you want. And boy, do I!
I also learned that I can do nearly everything I want with CSS, but that I still need tables if I want to be confident that the site will display as intended in the average user’s browser. A tip of the hat to Microsoft for keeping Netscape’s annoying table tags in circulation.
The big challenges right now have nothing to do with code. I need policies for posting, editing, advertising, as well as some idea of what my workflow will be.
What’s amazing to me is that although I knew deep down that open-source software was revolutionizing the publishing business, I had no idea how fundamentally disruptive this is becoming. And it goes beyond production. This software makes it possible to destroy the tacit understandings (and explicit labor contracts) that underpin publishing as we know it.
In the near future, you’d better have a damn good reason for printing something on paper, and you should forget about letting your print product drive your online strategy.