What is a "dynamic" or data driven site?  

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A dynamic site is defined by pages that are created automatically, on demand, from databases. This is done by using a set of predefined "routines" on the server (remote) computer. The leading format is ASP or active server pages, but Cold Fusion, PHP and Dot Net are among other names you'll see in use.

NOTE: Parts of a site like newsletters, forms, etc. can be data driven without loading the whole site from a database.

  • Saves storage space on the server. Ergo, sometimes cheaper.
  • Can update many instances of same data at once.
  • Can redesign a large site in a fraction of the time.
  • Can perform functions like calculating insurance rates, gathering email addresses and sending out newsletters, etc.
  • Way more expensive initially.
  • Not user friendly for maintenance - you need a programmer for any changes.
  • Dynamic pages, created on the fly from a database, are not searchable by the spiders and robots that read web pages for the search engines.
Rube Goldberg is without doubt the patron saint of programmers. There is never a shortage of overzealous programmers out there just waiting to help you over-complicate your project - if you let them.
ask yourself these questions
Am I starting a large site, or will it possibly grow rapidly?

The beauty of a dynamic (data base driven) site is that you don't have to build a new page every time you want to display new material or update old. Microsoft's online encyclopedia Encarta is a beautiful example of this put to good use. In the scientific world, especially, today's reality is tomorrow's fairy tale and vice versa. Updating all instances of a statement could be very time consuming in a conventional web site. A traditional printed encyclopedia issues yearly update volumes that refer to changes, but they are unchangeable in the existing volumes. The online encyclopedia, however, is never out of date! Multiple instances of a single item needing correction in numerous locations are at once updated by a single act on the database.

Conversely, a single text entry, occurring once, can be changed on a web page easier than opening and altering a database, and by a less trained individual.

In the online encyclopedia example it is a question of volume. There would be a huge number of pages referencing the same information in different combinations and locations. It is then logically cost effective to spend more now to save lots later.

The answer is - logically - if you don't need it don't do it.


Who will be managing the site week to week - a programmer or a content person?

On a small site the day to day staff could be trimmed all the way down to one person! If it is someone in your office, he or she would not likely be a tekkie. In this case static (non dynamic, or data base driven) pages could be updated with a simple text editor. On a small budget this makes a site fiscally feasible.

If your webmaster is a programmer/coder and you have a data base administrator, that might mean you already are a larger company and therfore need, and can afford, a totally data driven site.

Is your site software or a publication?

By this I mean are you showcasing a product for off-line sale, like real estate, or are you performing a mechanical service online? A site that gives you a requested result, like an insurance quote, from personal information submitted is software. A dynamic site is actually an online software application.

A real estate site or online magazine is a publication and unnecessary programming would amount to over-engineering. If you, for example, are a Re-Max franchise, you could actually have an impressive front end inexpensively created and tie-into a ready made database page from the main office.


Publication sites should be administered by designers, editors and publishers, not programmers - software sites need to be maintained by programmers.  Failure to heed this has been the prime reason many a site has disappeared from view and gone out of business. It was the greatest mistake of the web boom - no workable balance between the publisher mentality and the strictly technical.

onlinedesign can build and maintain a monthly newsletter for you.

A monthly newsletter can enhance customer loyalty and patronage by informing them monthly of your latest products and specials. It says "we're still here" and we value you as a customer. This is not only beneficial for large businesses but it is a cheap and effective way for local clubs, restaurants, stores, etc. to promote monthly specials. Memories are very short out there in consumer land. Simple, text based, newsletters can be user maintained. Newsletters that use photos and graphics can be run monthly for a small fee.
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