Problems No Platform Will Fix

By Deane Barker

This whole Aestiva thing has got me thinking about development platforms. Every week, there’s a new one that claims to be simpler and faster than the last one. ASP is simpler than JSP, PHP is more capable than ColdFusion, HTML/OS makes developing apps faster than the others, etc.

You know what I think? We have enough platforms already. They keep getting faster and simpler and one day there’s going to be a platform to which I can just say, “Hey, platform, build me a Web app,” and it will be done.

But you know what? Most apps will still suck. Building a great Web site or app isn’t about platforms, it’s about usability and content development and interface design and program flow and all the intangibles that you have to think about. These are things that no platform is going to fix.

Take Movable Type, for instance. Here’s an app built on a really old platform: Perl/CGI. Yet, it’s become the most wildly successful blogging tool out there. Why? Because of its platform? No, because of it’s interface and usability and documentation and community support and user-centered design, etc. The actual code behind this app is a very small part of why it has worked as well as it has.

Let’s stop with the new platforms already, and let’s build something good with what we have. New platforms just give us an excuse why our current stuff sucks (“It’s obvious that our app doesn’t work and no one is using it because we didn’t have the power, speed, and extensibility of the UberToad 5000 platform”).

I remember a conversation on a newsgroup sometime ago about ASP, and some guy chimed in and said “You can’t do anything with ASP, use J2EE instead.” That’s sad. If someone gives you a copy of [insert your platform here], and you still can’t build something with that, then get out of the business. Hiding behind platforms as an excuse why you can’t do your job is pretty pathetic.

That said, rant over.

This is item #347 in a sequence of 356 items.

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