Database Driven Web Design

Databases are at the heart of today's dynamic websites. Databases store information and deliver it to your site to your site's visitors on the fly through any number of Web programming or scripting languages. Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about dynamic, database-driven websites.

» What is a database driven website?
» What are dynamic Web pages and how do they differ from static Web pages?
» What is a database?
» What type of information is suitable for a database?
» Do I need a database designed for my website?
» What advantages will a database offer my website?
» Do search engines index dynamic Web pages?
» Can you host database-driven websites? 
» Will it be expensive to design a database-driven website?


What is a database-driven website?

A database-driven website uses a database to gather, display, or manipulate information. This is in contrast to a static site, which stores text entirely in HTML and graphics such as photos in folders on the Web server. With dynamic sites, Web pages are created on the fly through the use of programming languages or scripts, which store or retrieve data in the database. Site owners, however, don't have to worry about learning a programming language. They interact with the site through an easy-to-use content management system, or CMS. All content management systems can be designed and tailored to your specific requirements.

Here's how a dynamic site works: A visitor clicks on a link to a dynamic page. The request is sent to the server, which queries the database and builds the site based on the request. The server knows how to build the page based on the CMS and other instructions developed by the programmer.

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What are dynamic Web pages and how do they differ from static Web pages?

Static Web pages always look the same and the content rarely changes. To make a change, you must create the page yourself or request a Web designer to do it for you. The newly created page and any images must then be uploaded to the Web servers.

Dynamic pages are the opposite. They can change every time they are loaded (without anyone having to make those changes), and they can even change their content based on what your website visitors do. The dynamic page can be created to respond to information entered by your site's visitor.

Dynamic pages are created using information from a database. The Web pages are instantly created when the software "interrogates" your database, and the necessary information and images are returned.

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What is a database?

A database is a tool for storing information in a structured way. The information is stored in tables, and the tables are accessed by using database information access commands. Some common database systems are PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle and Microsoft Access.

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What type of information is suitable for a database?

In some ways, any information can be ported to a database, but some things are better suited than others. For example, address and phone lists, product inventories, lists of information and price are ideal for databases. If you don't have a lot of information, a static Web page may be the easiest way to display it. But if you have large amounts, or you want to display the same content in multiple places, a database makes the job much easier.

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Do I need a database for my website?

A database is required if your site is updated frequently, contains large amounts of data or needs to be interactive. For example, only a database-driven site enables visitors to search for products and have specific and related products returned. A database-driven site also allows you, the site owner, to update prices and other data very quickly and easily.

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What are the advantages of a database-driven site? 

Time: Maintaining a static website is time-consuming and costly, particularly if you have a large number of products or services on your website. Think of how much time it would take to design a new page and then upload it each time you added a new product or changed a price.

Now, imagine if you had other related products to be displayed on the same Web page. With a static page, any update or resorting will be painfully time consuming. Think of thousands of products, each with their own page requiring constant updating and uploading to the server.

With a database-driven site, each of the products exists in a single database record. Once you've changed the price or other details in the record, the information gets updated across any page that references that record. All you have to do is keep the database up to date to keep your entire website current.

Skill: With a database-driven site, no HTML or website design knowledge is required. If you can complete simple forms, you can update your website easily with a database. Even large, complex websites can be maintained by users with very little computer experience. If you can fill out a form, you can run a database-driven website.

Ability to easily implement features: With a few clicks in your content management system, you can arrange your products and services in whichever way you desire, whether it's in ascending or descending order by name, date or popularity.

Unique functionality: With a few clicks, you can instantly add advance features to your site. Your database can power website search, for example, so your visitors can find products and other information quickly and easily. Databases also can help calculate what your visitors need and present them with new information with every click. This is a much nicer experience for your visitors than having them trawl through each of your products to figure out what they're looking for.

Cost: Using a database-driven website solution is cost effective. Content management tools give you the freedom to create dynamic web page content yourself, rather than being dependent on an outside Web designer. You can easily add products or product categories, change prices and update graphics easily. As a result, you don't have to hire someone else to do the job for you.

Interactivity: Your website visitors are presented with information that relates specifically to their individual needs. A database-driven website can provide interactive elements to ensure that users have reasons to return your site on an ongoing basis.

Add as many web pages as you wish: Your database-driven site has the ability to evolve without extra costs. Your website can be as large as you choose to make it. New pages will be created automatically as you add more records to your database. You can even add more categories and subcategories.

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Do search engines index dynamic Web pages?

Yes, and there's a major benefit to a database-driven site. Because such sites generate many pages than static sites, there's a lot more material for search engines to crawl and index. That means there's a greater chance your visitors will find you through Google and other search engines when entering keywords.

Once the information is changed in the database and uploaded to the Web server, all pages that make up your site are updated immediately and available to both search engines and your visitors.

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Can You Host Database Driven Websites?

Yes! In addition to database design, GalaxyVisions provides professional business Web hosting facilities on high-performance Web servers with full support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Will it be expensive to design a database-driven website?

No. In fact, it is recommended that even small websites be designed with database functionality. This architecture allows you to upgrade the content easily. More importantly, you can grow your site without incurring major expenses. Several databases, such as MySQL, are available at no cost.

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