"Simpler" is subjective.
You'll see the ASP.NET advocates (who I find only really develop for internal web-applications) saying that data is simpler in ASP.NET because all you need is <asp:DataSource /> and <asp:DataGrid /> and then you'll have the pro-PHP lot with their simple
C-style mysql_* functions.
So whilst it's true that ASP.NET is simpler in this regard, it isn't ideal because using that approach means sacrificing control over what you want to generate to the client. Your indie website developer is looking for something good-looking and
unique, if he chose the "simple" ASP.NET solution he'd end up with something same-y and too rigid. He'd have to apply some major customizations to what ASP.NET gives you OOB to get something he wants, and the end result is something far more complicated than
the PHP solution.
Case in point: to stop the brain-dead behaviour of a lot of the ASP.NET WebControls you need to redefine default.browser and put that into its own special directory, maybe throw in a web.config file. With PHP you can ship an entire application in a single
*.php file (you can override php.ini settings and have full control over what's being generated), that's still something you can't do with ASP.NET.
I can draw analogies between your vision for ASP.NET as a "starter" solution as opposed to PHP and what WPF is to WinForms: yes, it's easier to make something simple, but in the vast majority of cases you end up with a software design and usability disaster
(forgone conclusion about aesthetics too). We use MSPaint and not Photoshop for basic tasks for a reason, and this is the same thing.