Why Create a Database Web Site?

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HTML vs. Database Web Sites. Why and when to choose one technology over the other.

HTML vs. Database Web Sites
When deciding on what type of web site to build, ask how often they are going to be updating the site, who will be updating the site, and what is the goal of the site. If it is simply going to be a brochure style web site that is only updated once or twice a year, then realistically you can still create an html web site. If you have someone that knows their web design program really well, then html sites are fine. If your site is only going to have a few pages, then html sites are fine.

If you build an HTML site will you be behind on the times, yes. Will it be harder to update, yes. Will your site still function in years to come, of course.

If you are going to be updating the site on a monthly basis or greater, or have an in-house staff that does not know web technologies, or have a lot of content, then go with a database design. It will save you time and allow you to take full advantage of the web and its new technologies. More on all of this below.

HTML Site Reasons

Again, if you are only creating an online brochure that is hardly ever updated, then a HTML web site will save you time and money. If you only have a few pages on your site, then an HTML site is fine. Quite simply, the database and administration areas do not have to created, bought or leased. Your HTML site will look just as snazzy and can include Flash, scripting, and even RSS / XML feeds.

 

HTML Site Technologies
If you are going to be creating an html web site in-house, then you should use Macromedia Dreamweaver. Most likely, if you outsource, your design team will be using it too. With Dreamweaver, you can create templates that will power the entire web site and give all pages a consistent look. You can set editable regions inside of each template, where you can modify content on a per page basis (i.e. photo, headline, copy text, and side navigation).

Of course, I would still recommend saving the pages as .php, .asp, or .cfm so that you can later add in scripting technology. Don’t worry even though you do not have any scripting in the page, you can still save it in any format that can later connect to a database. If you are only going to be updating an html site, then simply use Macromedia Contribute (Dreamweaver’s little brother/sister program). It can connect to any page and allow you to update the site as needed.

Database Driven Site Reasons
With that said, I would highly recommend a database driven web site. As for why to use a database drive web site here are some reasons:

  • It’s faster to update the web site, as you are only focusing on content.
  • It’s easier to update the web site, as you typically do it from an online control panel.
  • It will save money in the long-term, as you can focus your time on other marketing or duties.
  • You can update the site from anywhere, anytime, 24/7. ‘Nuff said.
  • You can build an effective search tool to search the entire database of information. Search tools are used by web site visitors a lot. Better searches mean happier visitors.
  • Anyone will be able to update the site as most content systems are very easy to use, with little learning curve.
  • By separating content from the design, you can later upgrade your web site easily. Simply apply a new template and you have an entire new site, without having transfer content.
  • You can input data once and have it populated to multiple pages. This again saves time and that saves everyone money.
  • When you add/edit/delete a page, all menus will be updated instantly. This cannot be underestimated as you want to maintain consistency in your menus / content.
  • You can export your data into XML / RSS feeds for inclusion on other web sites. This is especially helpful for your news section of the web site, but you can export any info that you want to syndicate.
  • You can export your data into XML / RSS feeds for inclusion into new technologies such as RSS aggregators or the upcoming Microsoft operating system, whenever that is released. 🙂
  • There will not be any broken links. All menus will be created dynamically by the database and content system. It is error proof, unless you override the system, or put in a bad link yourself into the copy text.
  • It will allow you to delete an attorney or any other page from the entire web site with a click of a button.
  • It will allow you to add an attorney or any other page from the entire web site with a click of a button.
  • You can maintain a detailed list of attorneys, offices, and practices. Meaning that an attorney can be linked quickly with any office or practice and only appear on those pages. Yes, you can do this with html pages, but it’s a pain if you have more than 10 attorneys as it’s tedious to update a ton of pages.

On the flip side, you should note that database driven web sites rank just as high in the searches as static html sites. So there is no real advantage gained. Of course, the more you post, the more information you will have for the search engines. Clients that have a database driven site usually post more information and have greater chances of ranking high in a specific search

Also, note that Database driven sites typically a bit more on the front-end to design a good content system. You can purchase existing content systems, find a good open-source content system, or have a developer build you a content system. There are also programs that you can lease too. Of course, the savings will definitely be seen over time as again it’s easier to maintain the site.

Database Driven Site Technologies
If you have chosen to go with a database site, then you need to know a little bit about how they work. In basic terms, all of your content is stored in the database. All design elements are stored in a template. Every time a page is called, the template loads and pulls in unique content for that page based on the URL. Again, this allows you to fully separate content from the design, which can make updates in the future easier.

As far as what technologies to use, the most popular scripting technologies are PHP, ASP, and CFM. When combined with a standard database such as MySQL or MS SQL, then you have a web site that is cutting edge. Of course, this is all technical mumbo-jumbo and most likely your selection will be made for you by your web designer. However, here is some quick information for those that want to know:

  • PHP is one of the most popular scripting technologies on the web. It is free to install, fast, and upgraded a lot by the open-source movement. There are thousands of extensions, widgets, and programs to make your site really snazzy. Help is but a forum away. It can be installed on Windows or Linux, but runs a bit better on Linux based computers. It usually goes with the MySQL database, although you can connect to other databases as well.
  • ASP / ASP.NET are Microsoft’s competing scripting technology. It is installed by default on Windows, although there are several programs that you can install on Linux to mimic ASP. ASP is also fast, and has a lot of extensions too. Microsoft has devoted a lot of resources for developers. PHP and ASP developers fight a lot over which technology is better. In any event, ASP can connect to any database, but of course likes to connect to MS SQL (Microsoft’s SQL database).
  • Next up, there is Coldfusion, which is Macromedia’s scripting technology. CFM does about the same thing as PHP and ASP do, but the code is sometimes easier to learn for designers. Moreover, Coldfusion can connect to any database. However, Coldfusion is not free. You must purchase the Coldfusion server in order to be able to run the code (or use a shared host that has Coldfusion).
  • Finally there are other technologies such as JSP, Perl, and various proprietary technologies that some developers build. If you want to know more about them, then ask your developer.

Again, most likely your choice will be made by your web design team. However, this was a good overview for those that are not bored by now.

I hope this quick overview helps.

Thanks.

Peter Boyd, Esq.
President & General Guru
PaperStreet Web Design
500 SW Ninth Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
954.523.2181 (tel)
954.337.6169 (fax)


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