Lightweight Internet Service Stacks

🚨 This research page is being made in public. You will find editing notes and placeholder content. I like making in public, more liberating than an eternity of hiding in a Google Doc.

This is an ongoing research page that documents lightweight internet publishing / ecom / social / communications services. The rough goal is to combine low cost or free services to build a ‘stack’ that allows you to be followed, found, sell and easily publish. The stimulus for this came from chatting to my mum about her website, art sales, social accounts, running costs and her audience. More detail on that in the Back Story section below.

I guess the big driver for me is to document a few stack options that people I know or meet could easily use. The trick is finding the perfect balance between ease of use, cost and impact. For example, eBay is easy to use and fees only apply on sales, but it might not be the best network to be found on. Shopify is also easy to use, but will cost a lot to run and isn’t a network. Squarespace allows a huge amount of customisation and flexibility but can be a chore to setup, maintain and will cost at least £144 a year. Some of the free or low cost services have a terrible experience for everyone, be it irritating pop-ups asking visitors to join, subscribe, convert to paid or locking owners into walled databases. And the visual design no code services require a bit of a design eye to make them look as good as the marketing examples. So it really is a balancing act to find the right stack. A goldilocks problem.

Right now it makes sense to publish this initial page and as the research and testing progresses I’m betting a series of focused sub pages and chapters will be written up that focus in on a stack recipe and how to it works.

The bottom line is – you want to put stuff online, how do you combine what is out there without having a massive bill and headache.


Services

This list could be endless, theres a lot of services out there. I’m going to see what I find, evaluate service offers, road test them and see how they can be of value in their most affordable pricing plan. Please do email me suggestions

We might steer towards complexity of setup and usage here and there. And also quickly away from it if the service gets too gnarly for most.

One page build services

Social services

  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

Newsletters

  • Substack

Blogs / Articles

  • Medium

Music

  • Soundcloud
  • Mixcloud

Shops

  • Etsy
  • Shopify
  • Depop
  • Ebay

Payment Services

  • Gumroad
  • Stripe

Portfolio Services

  • Cargo collective

No Code Visual Web Builders

Business Listing Services

  • Google Maps

Blogs

Reference Landing Page Services

  • Linktree

Others


Use cases

  • You want to upload and sort collections of images with text data attributes
  • You want to upload text notes
  • Occasionally you want to sell digital or physical items

Inbox & Questions

  • Can I make something that is really easy to publish a one page website?
  • If you want photo galleries, can you use a cloud service like Dropbox to host and another service to render out folders as pages?
  • How “easy” is it to use GitHub pages to host a Linktree style page?
  • Its not about the “correct stack”, its about the intention of each layer
  • Quality instagram images are needed in the first place to get click through

Creating, running and hosting a website isn’t for everyone. On its own it might not be the most effective service to reach an audience as most people spend their internet time inside networks these days.

The common pattern today is to use Linktree on your social profile url and bounce visitors to bunch of other places: more networks, forms, shops, websites, donations, newsletters and such.

Linktree seems to be a good service, at around ~£48 a year I started to wonder – what else is out there and what other publishing needs can be met on a budget?


Backstory

My mum is a painter. Last year she asked me to redesign her website. It would have been a bit of a chore to go through a redesign and rebuild because her website was running on an old custom build of WordPress. I wanted to find something she could easily update herself.

It got me thinking about if her website is the most useful thing to spend effort on when most of her views and engagement are going to come through a social network of some sort. Should she be encouraging people to follow her on social networks when they meet her? If they do, then they are more likely to see her new work than if they were to bookmark her website.

I wondered if using Linktree to bounce people to all her social accounts and exhibition websites would be a good fit. This then led me to think about what would be a suitable lightweight stack that an artist or a small business can use that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg.

These days a lot of the small services do come with fees, but there’s loads of free stuff out there or potentially stuff you can re-purpose that’s free.

So I thought it be interesting to document lightweight stacks – combinations of web services – that allow you to have visual presence and more feature options that just using Instagram alone.

I’ve also been on at my friend Caroline, she’s a Gardner. I believe that she should build up a little portfolio of her amazing work and a library of her plant knowledge. Finally, I’m a little bit stumped when I find small businesses exclusively use Instagram. What could they add that would help customers out? These three scenarios were the starting point for the research and have given me some interesting use cases to consider when auditing what is out there and how to combine them.


 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 15th January 2023