Parting Thoughts

Web Applications for Service Businesses

Posted 19 May 2007

Six months into my exploration of Ruby and Rails and the opportunities it represents, I’ve settled into a niche of building web applications that enable small and medium service businesses to better communicate with their customers.

Today, very few small service businesses have web sites that do much for them. Typically, if the business has any web site at all, it is mostly brochure ware, with a contact form as the limit of its interactivity. Yet almost every such business has interactions with its customers that could be facilitated by a customized web application.

For example, health care practitioners must deal with requests for appointments, referrals, records, and prescription refills. The office staff then needs an effective workflow to process these requests.

Accounting, financial services, and design firms have other needs; they typically have confidential documents they need to provide to their clients, and they need data from their clients. A web application can provide a much superior and more secure alternative to email.

There are countless other examples of businesses that could significantly improve their interactions with clients and customers via the web. But the vast majority of them have found it too intimidating and too expensive to implement the web solutions that they need.

I’ve found that my experience running small businesses makes it easy for me to understand the needs of these kinds of businesses and craft solutions that work for them. The Ruby on Rails platform dramatically reduces the time, and therefore the cost, to build these systems. And since I’ve now built several such applications, I have a set of building blocks to draw from that further streamlines the process.