How Difficult Is Web Scraping?

According to any wise man, it would be a good idea to know the depth of a river before you set foot inside. Before you dive into extracting data manually, without using web scraping tools like Zenscrape, you need to know what the process looks like, what it will demand of you and what you might be losing.

If you aren’t a programmer, you will have misconceptions about web scraping specific data which is not the same as scrapping the whole HTML page. (That’s too much for a beginner, let’s take it from the surface and go deeper, gradually.)

Since you are here, you want to know how difficult the process of web scraping is. This means one thing, you want specific data, not the entire HTML page.

The entire HTML page will not give you the dynamic and specific data you want. You want to have specific information to make your work — and life — easier. This is hard work and it is not what many people like doing. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Since It Is Easy To Scrape The Entire Html Page, Where Does It Get Difficult?

Perhaps that will be well understood if you start with how to scrape data from a website. Let’s use python as a case study.

Why do we use python is another question that could make the post longer. You can use Zenscrape, too. It is an amazing tool. But let’s assume you have never heard about it before. Python seems familiar. So let’s go.

To scrape data, you will start with finding the list of websites you want to scrape. You need their page URLs. With python, you can pull a number of websites and scrape all the data. That’s a great job, you know. But you have a monumental task before you. You don’t need all the data. You need specific data.

How To Scrape for specific data or information from a site

Sentence: Since you are here, you want to know What is Web Scraping? and how difficult the process of web scraping is.

If you are a programmer, you will want to try different approaches. You understand that although you could get data from websites, you can’t just walk in and demand it like it is your expected salary. You want to try to scrape certain content from a page, but you don’t have great tools like Zenscrape. Good. There are two ways to go about it

1. You will build a scraper that can scrape one website.

2. Or you can create a scraper that will scrape many websites at a time.

Here’s a bit of bad news. None of the above is easy. It is not a work any programmer would like to go into without coming out with tangible results. Sadly, this is what happens often.

Option One: Creating a Scraper that can Scrape one website

That’s like ‘creating a machine that can go house by house to tell you each’s color.’ How long will it take to go round? How many houses can you go? How will you create the machine AKA your scraper?

In this age and time, the internet and technology are advancing. This means what works last year may not work again this year. Or to be honest, what works today might not work in the next few months. The scraper you have built for one website might not work for another one. What works for website A might not work for the same website in two weeks’ time.

Do you get the idea here now?

You have a lot of work to do, creating and recreating — like editing — the scrapers that will continue to meet demands as time goes on. As things change, you will need to improve or you will have nothing.

To summarise, this option is difficult because it takes time to maintain. You will need to create many scarpers that work for different websites.

Well, you have another option.

Option Two: Creating a scraper that could scrape many websites.

Here, you as the developer will need to create a scraper that can understand the structure of many websites. You must come up with code that can determine the structure of each website automatically, then the code must also understand the structure of each relevant page.

For badass programmers, you can achieve between 25 to 50% accuracy here. Many programmers can do that. Now take the accuracy level up to 90% and you will see a lot of unsuccessful attempts, big failures. It is more painful because you need a lot of technical support to get to that level — difficult to handle.

Zenscrape is a tool that can help you with web scraping. It makes things easier to a considerable extent.


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