I just launched a small web site for a local coffee shop, Vox Pop. It's a great place on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn and if you live nearby you should definitely stop by. Books, coffee, and democracy, they say. I'd add "great live music" to the list as well.
But that's not why I'm writing about it here. Nor is the web site especially notable; it's just the standard site you'd expect from any coffee shop. A very simple text-based design (the only kind I really do), with news, events, photos and a menu.
What's notable is its content management system. It doesn't have any. But, it's not a static site of the sort we see too often. Debi, who does such a wonderful job of running Vox Pop, most certainly does not need the additional work of updating a web site. She already hosts a Facebook group, posting news there, and publishes Vox Pop events on a public Google calendar, and sends out an email newsletter. If she had to go and update the web site as well, chances are it wouldn't get done.
Instead, the site updates itself by pulling from all those sources. The news comes from Facebook, the events from Google, the photos from Flickr. All of these services have rich APIs and good feeds (well, except for Facebook, but with a little patience and a Yahoo pipe that was taken care of). So the site stays live and current without any additional work.
The modern web can be a little overwhelming, with so many places to update your information. Many people give up on destination web sites altogether. But they are valuable -- "voxpopcafe.com" looks a lot better on a sign or a business card than a Facebook or MySpace url -- and offer you better control over your appearance on the web and in search engines. Harmonica's web sites all work like this, getting their content from the sources you're already using, rather than requiring you to do another extra update.
Best of all, once we got going on it, a colleague and I put the cafe's web site, and its sister site for Vox Pop Publishing, in less than a week.