One of the first choices to make when planning a new website is whether it has to be static or dynamic. Static websites show the same content for each visitor. Of course there can be more than one page on the site, but the content has been improved. On dynamic websites, content can change. Visitors can interact with it. For example it might be for them to leave a comment so other visitors can see it. In general, dynamic websites offer more possibilities. But if you only want to give a brief presentation about yourself or the company, a static solution might be the answer. But in most cases dynamic web pages are the way to go.
Static pages consist of HTML files that are generated locally on your PC and then uploaded to the web server. This can be done in special programs such as Adope Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression Web or Coffeecup HTML Editor. If changes have to be made, the file is changed on the PC and then uploaded to the server again.
To create dynamic web pages, you need to use scripts. That means the web server reads and “translates” the file instead of just sending it as is to the web browser. PHP is a commonly used scripting language. Almost all web hosting services provide it even in entry level packages.
Example of PHP:
?php>Echo “Hello world!”;
The example above shows the text Hello world! PHP and HTML can be easily mixed in one file. The start and end tags show the server what PHP and HTML are. In the same way as HTML files, PHP files can be created in any editor that can save files as plain text. The example doesn’t really show the real power of PHP. What makes it very suitable for dynamic web pages is the ability to connect to databases. This gives the possibility to store and receive information. This can be used for various information such as user names, comments, article text and so on. This also means you can add information to your web page from any computer with Internet access.
A popular database is MySQL. Both PHP and MySQL are Open Source software and there are and many resources for support available.
But even if you don’t want to learn how to program PHP and SQL, it’s still possible to reap the benefits of this powerful combination. There are many projects that develop scripts that you can use for free on your own web page. WordPress is a blogging software. Once set up and running, it’s easy to add new posts to your page. Another solution is to get a CMS (Content Management System) like Joomla. The script file comes with instructions on how to install it, so that it can be done with minimum PHP knowledge. Some web hosts make it even easier. They offer installation scripts, where you only need to provide a few lines of information, the system takes care of the rest. You can also get other solutions like Forums or bulletin boards which are programmed in PHP and ready to run.
PHP and MySQL are also very scalable solutions. From personal web pages or blogs hosted on cheap hosting providers to very large social networks. For example Facebook is based on PHP and MySQL.