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What Is A Dynamic Webpage And Why Do I Care?

Dynamic means ‘characterised by constant change, activity or progress’.

www-November-26In the first days of the World Wide Web websites were a lot simpler. Content authors lovingly hand-crafted web pages using the HTML mark-up language and uploaded each page as a single file to a special directory on their webserver. However this required skills that most content authors didn’t want to learn. Before long Content Management Systems, such as the Intergage CMS, were invented to make the process easier and over time these were enhanced, to add shopping features to an E-Commerce website for example.

If you were to view a product page on an E-Commerce website, then add a product to your shopping basket and visit the same product page again, you will see that a summary of the shopping basket is displayed. No matter how many times you view that page, even though some content is changing, the URL (such as http://mysite.com/widget.html) is likely to stay the same. This is a dynamic web page, i.e. one that is generated ‘on the fly’, taking the context of the visit into account.

Broadly speaking the context is the ‘current state of affairs’, a combination of factors such as:

  • Is the visitor logged on?
  • Do they have products in their shopping basket?
  • Have they voted on a poll?

Who makes the web page?

The content author uses their Content Management System (CMS) administration area (or ‘back-end’) to populate aspects of the database, for example the page structure and product details. They will also upload some ‘real’ files: typically images and PDF files to be made available for download. The CMS will provide additional features for more advanced users to manage things such as layout templates, JavaScript and CSS files to control the look & feel and to enhance the user experience.

Binary-November-26It is no longer the job of a content author to make a file named “widget.html”. Instead, the CMS is given the URL of the requested page at the moment the visitor types it into their browser or clicks a hyperlink. The CMS programme code is designed to take the URL, determine the contextual and pre-defined data to use, assemble the correct content and return it to the visitor’s browser.

As far as a visitor or search engine crawler is concerned, the dynamically generated web page arrives in the same way as a simple file containing HTML in the ‘old’ World Wide Web. You can still “view source” and see HTML mark-up if you want to!

What does my website look like without the CMS?

The website database can be imagined as a few hundred spreadsheets of data, full of cross-referenced numbers that are completely unreadable to a human and the occasional block of text. Special techniques are used to manage additional files such as images. Only the CMS can make sense of this.

Conclusion

The Intergage CMS provides two important features:

  • a ‘back-end’ administration facility to add pre-defined data and files.
  • a ‘front-end’ facility to dynamically generate rich interactive HTML pages.

The ‘front-end’ programme determines the all-important context that influences the content generation process to provide a web page tailored exactly to what your visitor needs to see at the precise time they need it.

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