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Web Solutions

On the Web today, content is king. After you've mastered HTML and learned a few neat tricks in JavaScript and Dynamic HTML, you can 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.

The 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.

Maintenance 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 feel locked into a dry, outdated design because rewriting those hundreds of HTML files to reflect a new design would take forever.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.

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 managementsystem that allows the writers to post new content themselves without a lick of HTML!

Infowaves will 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 making use of it without explanation. A teensy bit of JavaScript may serve us well at some point, but I'll be sure to keep it simple for the uninitiated.

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!