On the Web today, content is king. After you've mastered HTML and
probably build a pretty impressive-looking Web site design. But then
comes the time to fill that fancy page layout with some real
information. Any site that successfully attracts repeat visitors has to
have fresh and constantly updated content. In the world of traditional
site building, that means HTML files--and lots of 'em.
problem is that, more often than not, the people providing the content
for a site are not the same people handling its design. Oftentimes, the
content provider doesn't even know HTML. How, then, is the content to
get from the provider onto the Web site? Not every company can afford
to staff a full-time Webmaster, and most Webmasters have better things
to do than copying Word files into HTML templates anyway.
of a content-driven site can be a real pain, too. Many sites (perhaps
yours?) feel locked into a dry, outdated design because rewriting those
hundreds of HTML files to reflect a new design would take forever.
Server-side includes (SSI's) can help alleviate the burden a little,
but you still end up with hundreds of files that need to be maintained
should you wish to make a fundamental change to your site.
solution to these headaches is database-driven site design. By
achieving complete separation between your site's design and the
content you are looking to present, you can work with each without
disturbing the other. Instead of writing an HTML file for every page of
your site, you only need to write a page for each kind of information
you want to be able to present. Instead of endlessly pasting new
content into your tired page layouts, create a simple content
management system that allows the writers to post new content
themselves without a lick of HTML!
In this 10-part weekly
series of articles, I'll provide a hands-on look at what's involved in
building a database-driven Web site. We'll be using two new tools for
this: the PHP scripting language and the MySQL relational database. If
your Web host provides PHP/MySQL support, you're in great shape. If
not, we'll be looking at the set-up procedures under Unix and Windows,
so don't sweat it.
These articles are aimed at intermediate or
advanced Web designers looking to make the leap into server-side
programming. You'll be expected to be comfortable with HTML, as I'll be
serve us well at some point, but I'll be sure to keep it simple for the
By the end of this series, you can expect to have
a grasp of what's involved in setting up and building a database-driven
Web site. If you follow along with the examples, you'll also learn the
basics of PHP (a server-side scripting language that allows you to do a
lot more than access a database easily) and Structured Query Language
(SQL -- the standard language for interacting with relational
databases). Most importantly, you'll come away with everything you need
to get started on your very own database-driven site in no time!