Semi-Dynamic WWW Sites

Often, websites are presented as either static and unchanging or fully dynamic. Unfortunately, made-to-order pages impose burdens on the entire www infrastructure, from the web site's host system, through the network, and the recipient's system.

However, this is a needless dichotomy. Made-to-order, dynamic pages and fully static, unchanging pages are not the only two possibilities, but are the endpoints of a continuum. Semi-dynamic, or semi-static pages that pre-compute common situations are far more efficient. Automatically generated pages are one of the less often considered alternatives. Static HTML pages generated by automatic processes from databases are a very good option. Such pages are easily updated when data changes, yet appear to the infrastructure as easily processed static pages.

As a demonstration of this approach, our firm implemented, the www site for the authors of the Computer Security Handbook. This www site was (and is) generated using an automatic, data driven process using an XML data structure and SAXON, an XSLT processor.

This approach allows the appearance, structure, and data on the site to be globally changed, within the site's paradigm, by an automated process. The pages produced by this process are static HTML pages, which can be delivered with all of the efficiencies normally achieved by a conventional static www site. As an example, these pages are fully indexable by search engines.

In short, this approach allows the best of both worlds; the high efficiency of static pages with the flexibility normally associated with dynamic pages.

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