Creating Your First Dynamic Website
As your website expands you may find it too hard to have to create a new static HTML pages every time you want to add more content to your website, as well as having to update existing pages with links to the new content. if you feel that your website is becoming too large to maintain through the use of static pages then you will probably be considering building a new website which is much more dynamic both in the way it works and how you are able to manage it. Creating a dynamic website can be complicated, especially if its your first time using a scripting language other than HTML or CSS; this is because to build a dynamic website you need to be able to use a server side scripting language, and in all cases knowledge of a relevant database system will also be needed. If you plan on hosting your new dynamic website on your existing web hosting package then you should make sure that your web hosting package will be able to support the scripting language and database system which you have chosen to base your website on; there are a number of factors that can affect how your website will work on your web hosting package such as the scripting language used and the operating system that the web hosting package is based on.
In order to create your first dynamic website, you need to consider which scripting language you are going to base your website on. Although you are probably use to using HTML and CSS for your website at the moment, these are only client side scripting languages which mean that they can’t execute any server side code. In order to create a dynamic website you need to learn a server side scripting language which has the capacity to interact with a database to ensure that your website is truely dynamic meaning that all the data will be stored in one central location. If you already know how to use a certain server side scripting language then all you need to do is select the right database system for your requirements. If you don’t know a server side scripting language at current then you could learn one or more of the following:
- PHP – this is an open source scripting language which is one of the most popular in the world and can be used along with the MySQL database server in order to allow you to create a dynamic website – PHP is easy to learn and since it is open source there are many active developer communities which are there to aid you in case you get stuck when learning a certain part of it, if you find that you advance with it then you can make use of the source code to modify it to run in the way you want
- classic ASP – although this is now a redundant scripting language it is still used by many who have existing websites that are scripted using it or if you just want a basic point to start from – classic ASP can be used with both Microsoft Access databases and Microsoft SQL Server databases meaning that you have plenty of choice when it comes down to databases – it should be noted that classic ASP is much more basic than ASP.NET
- ASP.NET – this is Microsoft’s most up to date scripting language and is used by many web developers who previously used classic ASP for their needs – it should be noted that ASP.NET is much more powerful than classic ASP and therefore may be harder to learn for some, although it still integrated with Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server databases like classic ASP.
There is a wide choice of scripting languages you can learn; on one hand you can choose an open source language such as PHP with the hope of support from multiple websites and developer communities, or on the other hand you can choose to use a commercial well documented language such as ASP.NET. All scripting languages have their own structure and syntax meaning that it would be a good idea for you to give them all a go so that you can find out for yourself which language is the most suitable for your needs.
Once you know which scripting language you are going to base your new dynamic website on, you will need to select the database system in which all the information related to your website including configuration details and content will be stored. The database system that you choose for your website is very much dependent on your chose scripting language, and again each database system has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to your requirements. Your choice of database system is also likely to be influenced by the operating system that your web hosting package is based on, since like scripting languages some database systems are platform specific. The main database system that are now offered by a majority of web hosting providers will include:
- MySQL – this is offered by both Windows and Linux web hosting providers since it isn’t a platform specific database server – it is mainly used in conjunction with the PHP scripting language in a Linux web hosting environment although it can also be used with classic ASP and ASP.NET websites in the context of a Windows web hosting environment, although if you do choose to use this setup then you may not find your website to be very reliable
- Microsoft SQL Server – this is Microsoft’s flagship database server and can only be used in a Windows web hosting environment due to the fact that it’s a Microsoft product – it can be used in conjunction with the latest versions of both classic ASP and ASP.NET, although its support for classic ASP may be dropped in future releases because classic ASP is now becoming a very much defunct scripting language
- Microsoft Access – this works in a completely different way to both MySQL server and Microsoft SQL server since it is classed as a desktop database system therefore meaning that it is called as a single file on the server rather than through a service – Microsoft Access can be used along with both classic ASP and ASP.NET and is perfect for small to medium sized websites that don’t require the use of an SQL based database server.
The main purpose of a database for your dynamic website will be as a place where all the information related to your website will be stored, meaning that every page that you have created will have access to the content and information stored in your database.
Once you are sure of the scripting language and database system that you want to use for your new dynamic website, you should be considering the look of your website as well as how you want to structure it in terms of pages and functionality. Although you may already have a design set out for your websit eif for example you were using a static HTML based site before, you should still set out the features that you wish to have in your new dynamic websites. Such features that you should be considering include:
- administration area – having a web based administration area from which you can manage all the different aspects of your website can be helpful, since you can use it to add and take away content from your website and if you have advanced knowledge you can also use it to create and manage a members area for your website if you see fit to have one
- web based contact form – as part of your new dynamic website, you could consider a web based contact/feedback form which will allow your visitors to contact you with regards to your website for example if they have comments to make on the design or if they would like to see certain new content added to thr site
- forum or blog – if you are creating a new dynamic website then you should also considering adding a forum or blog to it since either of these will allow your visitors to interact with each other in a different way – having a forum or blog can also boost your search engine ranking.
Adding extra features to your dynamic website may attract more visitors in, and it may make those visitors who do come stay longer or return for one reason or another. If you are redoing your website then you should make the most of it and take it as a chance to revitalise your website.
In conclusion, you can learn a lot from creating your first dynamic website since you can pick up on learning some of the most popular scripting languages there are around which is something that could benefit you in the future if you have to build any websites again then. But you should also use this as an opportunity to expand on your website by adding new features such as a blog or forum so that your visitors can interact with each other as well.