8 ways to reduce hand coding

The size and complexity of Web sites is increasing dramatically. Nowadays, most Web sites don’t consist of just static HTML pages with hyperlinks. Instead, they’re sophisticated and interactive systems with dynamic databases, administration backend and other bells and whistles. Developing such applications takes much time and effort and is a real challenge to those lacking development skills.

But the good news is that you can free yourself from some of the programming complexity or even code less to produce quality web sites and applications. In this post we take a look at 8 ways you can reduce hand coding.


Scripts are full-featured web applications that can be downloaded either for free or a fee and installed on your own server. They provide the easiest way to launch a web site or add functionalities to an existing one without any hand coding. You’ll find scripts for virtually any type of web site from photo galleries scripts to Facebook clone scripts on HotScripts.

Plugins, Modules and Components

When scripts fail to provide the customization or tweaks you require, you can resort to using their plug-ins/modules. Most popular scripts offer a plugin system, which can be installed and configured to extend the existing built-in features.  For example, WordPress has over 10,000 plugins making it infinitely extensible.

One-click Script Installers

If installing and configuring scripts still presents a level of technical complexity for you, then one-click script installers will help you install and upgrade your scripts automatically. A lot of web hosting companies already provide automated script installation software like Fantastico, but if yours doesn’t then you can always turn to SimpleScripts. SimpleScripts offers remote script installation for over 70 popular open source scripts to your existing web hosting account. It also has an automated notification feature that will inform you whenever a new script version is available.

Web Widgets

Web Widgets are codes that you can copy and paste into any HTML web site to display content or add interactivity to your site. For example, with a few lines of readily available codes, you can add a voting poll to your site, weather forecast, twitter stream of your followers or even videos and Flash games to your site. A common example if the ‘Tweet this’ button you’ll find on many blogs including the HotScripts blog. You can find a huge collection of widgets at widgetbox.com. Some sites will use different terminology for widgets – Google calls widgets ‘Google Gadgets’ while others might refer to widgets as Web Apps.


A common misconception of APIs is that they are hard to use. While this holds true for certain APIs, there are however a lot of APIs that can bring added-features to your sites with just a few lines of code. Most API providers nowadays provide ample of documentation and sample codes and to make this even easier. For example the Google Maps API is extremely easy to understand and use.  If you’re looking for APIs, remember to check programmableweb.com. (They also showcase Mashups which are basically combination of different APIs).

Frameworks & Libraries

Frameworks and libraries offer rapid application development by providing reusable code wrapped in either functions or API. They are designed to support the development of dynamic web sites, web applications and web services. Framework helps a lot in alleviating the overhead associated in developing web application like database access, templating framework, user authentication, etc.  If you’re looking for the most popular web frameworks for the different programming platforms, take a look at this post.

Website Builders

Website builders can be pretty handy to quickly generate a web site without touching a single line of code. Some website builders are offered as SaaS applications whereby which you can signup and choose different template designs and use the built-in CMS to manage your content. They offer a much cheaper alternative to a custom design and coded websites. There are also several website builders scripts that you can install on your own server and use it to easily launch new sites. Here’s our collection of PHP website builders scripts.

Code Generators

Writing a simple database application in can take a lot of time and effort – you will have to design the HTML form, write queries, implement validation/error handling, test the application, etc. You can save yourself a lot of time and reduce development cost if you use a code generator. Code generators are desktop or web-based applications that once installed will allow you to define your database and it will automatically generate all the required HTML, CSS and server-side files. You can then simply update these files to your server and get complete running applications in a few minutes. Check out our showcase of PHP code generators.


  1. Joe McPlumber

    "Developing such applications takes much time and effort and is a real challenge to those lacking development skills." It's also challenging to build an automobile when you lack mechanical skills. But if that's what you want to do then shouldn't you expect to learn something of the underlying technology? I have to take issue with the presentation because it's so prevalent and it's like handing someone an adjustable wrench and a bunch of car bits and implying that they'll be driving around in no time, without the need for expertise or experts. As an independent web guy i've used most of these tools at some point. But having just finished assisting a client with a Godaddy "Website Tonight" site i've gotta say i cringed when i saw the title of this post, first thing in the morning in my inbox. Handing someone an application framework and representing it as a substitute for hand coding is like handing someone a WYSIWYG and calling it a substitute for a developer. You'll inevitably get the only slightly more sophisticated equivalent of pasting from Word or inserting a picture you took with your 15MP camera, because you don't understand this fundamental or that. The reason i do this job is because i find something deeply satisfying in creating a rich user experience atop a sturdy and semantically sensible structure. Conversely i find something deeply disturbing about going to all that trouble only to have a CMS or a javascript library muck it up in the name of expediency. It's fine if people want to reduce their hand coding. I don't want to, or at least not at the expense of best practices and the Web as a whole. Just, please don't represent this stuff as a substitute for coding, for people who don't have the skills.

  2. Jurgen

    I couldn't have said it better. While these kind of apps are clever in itself, and can be handy when used sensibly, they cannot replace professional hand coding. Furthermore, someone without a decent amount of coding skills and knowledge of databases, won't be able to make any sense of them at all.

  3. neo

    I can't tell you the number of times someone has asked for me to help them with SEO because the websites they are building just don't list in Google. I ask them what are you using to build your websites. Every time, the answer is some kind of CMS that dynamically builds the code from a backend and then displays the page. I know its not fair, I know you hate to hear it, I know you just don't believe it, but the truth is do a website in a CMS (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress) and you better have a day job to support yourself, because your clients are going to get NO sales. Think of it this way. You're Google. You're supposed to direct people to the pages they are searching for. If you fail at that simple procedure people think Google sucks. A page is generated dynamically. Googlebot indexes that page. what are the chances that page will remain the same for infinity so that Google can continue to direct people to it. Zero Zilche Nada if its a CMS. In fact Wordpress out of the box duplicates the same page content for archiving 5 TIMES! Which one of those 5 pages is Google supposed to send the searcher to? If you think you're going to get first page placement for all 5 pages think again. What you'll get is no placement at all. CMSs by nature are an anathema to Google. Unless you are a PHP / RUBY / Python / or Perl whizz that can modify the whole CMS to do what it really should be doing, then stay the heck away from them. And stop calling me up for help! Why you all can't understand this after producing the same dismal results site after site, I'll never know. Go to a simple HTML tutorial, roll your own, and be amazed at the positions you hold in Google over all the other dynamically generated crap out there. The older and more antiquated the code you write, the more stuff you will sell. Sad facts of life 101.

  4. Joe .... I get your point but I dont think users are crusing Hot Scripts and if they are they will just get themselves in trouble and then pay you to bail them out. As a developer I found this article interesting and some new food for thought.

  5. I would have to agree with the Framework aspect. Many developers and companies are using framework these days in order to put the finishing touches to their software. Great examples include Smarty and Saviant2. While Modcove is strictly a PHP developer; we make use of framework whenever possible. Not only does it help us in making our products better, but its great advertisement for the companies out there that develop framework.