The use of a web gui is very usefull for adjustments on the Asterisk box that are not to complicated. If it becomes complicated also aah or the thirdlane tool are not capable of assisting the proces in a usefull way.
Editing the .conf files of Asterisk is not as complicated as stated above. Not the configuration is very complicated, most of the time it’s just a couple of extra lines for another “asterisk miracle”, but finding out what the costumer really wants and really needs. That’s the challenge and that is what (can) take a lot of time.
I can’t imagin that a professional Asterisk consultant is editing .conf files for weeks implementing a dial plan with groups, dialing sequences (for instance : first dial 501 and 502 for 15 seconds, then dial a cellphone for 15 seconds, then start an ivr with different options and when a message has been recorded send a sms to confirm this), costimized voicemenu’s, spoken message services, call back services, custimized music on hold based on number matching etc. Some of the examples are very usefull but can’t be configured using AAH or some other configuration tool. This webenabled configuration tools are very usefull but in my opinion only for the enduser who wants to make some minor adjustments like adding a phone without having to hire an Asterisk consultant.
In the beginning all the .conf files look very complicated but as soon as you find out the real way it works it’s supprisingly easy to let Asterisk do amazing things by just adding a couple of lines, mostly in extensions.conf or files included in extensions.conf. I always use Xorcom-rapid as a starting point , it’s preconfigured with 10 sip and 10 iax extensions, a meetme room and a lot of other nice features and ready for use after installation, it has some very usefull tools in the rapid-menu and it’s very stable using Debian as the OS.
If you want to show your costumers something nice install Gastman (an operating panel) on a Windows PC, configure manager.conf, start Gastman and see what happens when you make a call. It’s easy, usefull and it is not using precious cpu cycles and memory on your Asterisk box like Apache servers and mysql databases do.