The Low-Tech Solution

by Krishna on May 7, 2007

Sometimes, the best solution for a particular problem is not necessarily a high-tech one. Here are some examples:

  1. Drawing something on paper and scanning it instead of using Microsoft Visio.
  2. Walking over to talk to someone instead of trying to explain everything through email.
  3. Using Microsoft Excel with graphs instead of using Microsoft SQL Server and Crystal Reports.
  4. One web page with 3 screenshots of your product with a link to PayPal instead of a graphics and Flash-rich website.
  5. HTML instead of SGML. (Read more about this from Coding Horror)
  6. Copying and pasting data instead of writing a full-fledged migration application.

The key word is “sometimes”. Usually, it does make sense to spend the time and effort to build and use a high-tech application. The solution built using the latest tools will usually be the most flexible and elegant one. It can be carefully designed to manage expected changes in business rules. But sometimes, all this effort is not really required.

A fundamental issue is that the high-tech solution takes time to design and build, while the low-tech solution is already available or can be built faster. For example, a simple website that allows the user to pay for the product takes very little time to set up. To build a more sophisticated e‑commerce website may be better, but you will not be able to process any Internet payments in the meantime.

Also, the high-tech solution may not exactly provide the ease of use of the low-tech solution under certain circumstances. For example, Visio provides a lot of design stencils that cater to technical diagrams, but for simple diagrams where accuracy or standardization is not an issue, you can get the job done faster with just drawing on paper.

When the life of the solution is small, the expense involved in building and maintaining a high-tech solution is not justified. People from a programming background usually make this mistake. Instead of using a manual solution or taking advantage of existing tools like Excel or Access, they tend to go overboard using the latest framework, language or tool in the market.

As the case of HTML shows, a low-tech solution may actually become the de-facto solution beyond what it was intended for. That may or may not be a problem, depending on your point of view or your circumstances.

{ 1 comment }

FX2000 May 9, 2007 at 8:52 am

Nice article, to add to it
There used to be a story that passed on from Inbox to Inbox , that during early 60s NASA spent millions to develop a pen that would write in space, whereas the soviet cosmonauts used a pencil.This passes us the strong message of simplicity and thrift and exposes that common sense is not so common in a bureaucracy.

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