Why not homogenize?

I had a much longer post but Windows puked. Fucking Windows.

The short version is this: For another site I maintain, I use a total of six different coded products. Not one of the lot is actually integrated with the other, and no, I don’t use the same password between them. I’ve been having thoughts about merging the various tools into one vended support option, but as I look into the options, not one meets all the goals I have.

Most of the time, when people look at a One Ring solution to keep all their products in line, they think of two aspects: usability and style.

Usability means that, on the back end, you only have to learn one style of tools. We all know that no two product vendors produce the same style of code. Microsoft’s suite of word processing tools are, by far, the best out there, but Photoshop’s the place people go for photo editing. The interfaces between the two software tools is nothing alike. They’re so far un-alike it’s laughable. Hell, even Word on Windows is dissimilar to Word on a Mac.

So for usability, people like things to look the same, or at least similar, so they don’t have to think hard when wanting to make a change. That makes sense.

Style is more complicated. They want things to look the same. This makes more sense when you’re talking about a webpage, were you might have multiple background tools, but you want the whole site to look the same. This is called seemless integration. I call it style, since it’s a look and feel situation for the end use. Style points are useful. Style points keep people coming back to your site.

In web software, which is as far as we’re going today, seamless integration is the #2 thing. #1 is content, a point most sites I’ve seen tend to miss. You have to have something worth reading, or people won’t read. Second? They have to enjoy the visit.

A pox on all the sites with dark backgrounds and light fonts! That is not enjoyable! Most of us grow up with black text on white/light paper! We’re used to it, we like it, and our eyes have adjusted. Pander to us!

There, was that too hard?

Once you get a design, folding your multitude of tools into a seamless integrated design is fucking hell. Period. The majority of my sites are hand-coded, which means any integration was done manually. Over the years I got wise and used PHP includes, and then a PHP/SQL pastiche. But I attacked each part of the website problem as a separate entity.

I needed polls, so I found good software. I needed an RSS feed, so I found one I liked. I needed a better gallery, so I picked on and so on and so forth. Doing things that way made extra work for me, this is true, but it also allowed me to tackle each new component as an individual. Would it have taken less time if I’d found an all in one solution? Yes, but it falls back on the problem that what I need doesn’t fall under usability and style.

When I look for a new addition, I look for it as it’s own thing. A gallery needs to stand alone, without the rest of the site, and meet my organizational goals, my pretty URL goals, and my bandwidth goals. I’m confident enough in my l33t skilz to hack a system and make it look like how I want.

So for me, a hacked up mishmosh system suite is what I need. Each tool is tailored specifically to my goals, and while it makes more work for me, the end user never has to deal with most of it.

And if they’re happy, I’m happy.