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Comparing static webpages with phpWebSite
updated by rck, 2007-01-07

A lot of people are confronted with a tough decission: Should I go for static pages or should I rather take a CMS for my web content needs? While the comparison between a static web page and a CMS might seem a little bit unfair to the pros, it is still reality and something worth reviewing.

The following article tries to shine a little light on the possibilities of phpWebSite, compared with static solutions that can cope without databases and even without php.
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A little bit of history

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee
The web as we know it started about 1990. Tim Berners-Lee, started working on code for processing so called "Hyper Text" on the September, 25th 1990 (see The Early History of HTML). The Idea behind HTML was simple and rather academic: Instead of having standalone texts, Mr. Berners-Lee wanted to connect them through so called "Hyper Links", or "Links" as we call them today.

While this simple idea prevailed, all kind of things were added to HTML. Stuff like background-images (the initial draft of HTML just had a plain gray background for every page), tables, frames, etc. got added and eventually resulted in the famous Browser Wars. Microsoft (Internet Explorer) and Netscape (Netscape Navigator) would battle against each other, trying hard to convince people to use their particular browsers by providing special features the other browser didn't have.

All kind of troubles

Ms. Boo
Ms. Boo
The Internet Hype, which resulted in a big ".com death" around 2000, didn't help here too much either. Pages were marked with stuff like "Best viewed with IE", "Best viewed with Netscape" and so on. At some point, you even had to have a couple of different browsers installed, just to view certain web pages.

Behind the curtain, there was a big mess of code. All kind of incompatible tags, all kind of abuse of features to accomplish outstanding pages. There was a big "tag soup", people used for example tables with "spacer gifs" (invisible GIFs just for layout) to accomplish a "pixel-perfect" layout because CSS with pixel-layout capabilities was not available yet.

As a result, pages were hard to maintain, there were browser checks everywhere, People who wanted others to see fancy presentations of their companies had to invest a lot of time to make it happen. Almost every page had to be handcrafted and tested to work on the main browsers.

Technical Solutions

Technical solutions could not help Internet-driven companies survive (Amazon, Ebay and Yahoo being noteable exceptions). But they could help others to make cost-effective web pages that were compatible and maintainable. There were two main streams:

a) Offline-Solutions. Webpage editors like Hot Dog, or Dreamweaver made it possible for "the rest of us" to write web pages in an reasonable amount of time.

b) Online-Solutions. Other web pages had their web editors built right in. There were online-forums, web based content management systems like Nuke, Typo3 or phpWebSite and there's the current hype of Blogs. Everyone can publish content online with one of those and some of them are even available for free.

Last but not least, there's also a hybrid solution available. The one I know about is called Contribute and provides means of filling out templates provided by Dreamweaver. That results in a mixture of offline-preparation and online-templating.
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