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Advantages of database driven websites

In this article I’d like to share some easy-to-understand knowledge on a crucial topic in web content management.

What is database driven website?
Simply, a website which contains its content in a database with a connection to itself is referred as a database driven website. A database driven website is most likely consists of dynamic web pages, not static.

To understand better, we need to identify these 2 types of pages:

Static webpage: Contains all instances in its HTML. These instances are usually textual and visual content, stylesheet and javascript. Static pages can even be displayed just the same in your local desktop as long as instances are there. So if you have a website consisting of 20 static pages, then you have 20 individual HTMLs coded with the same stylesheet to give the same design, and using same javascripts to have same functions across the website. If you ever decide to redesign the website,  20 pages needs to be edited one by one, in the same way. I’m sure you already thought that this isn’t the most efficient way to do it. Especially if you have hundreds of pages.

Dynamic webpage: A dynamic webpage separates its textual and visual content from its design/template. When connection established between the two, visitor actually sees a template being filled with the textual/visual content from the connected database, real-time. A database is most probably where you store that separated textual and visual content.  Hence the websites using this model is called “database driven”.

static vs. database driven A database driven website is mostly set-up if there are a lot of product pages. Web content type for products is referred as “structured content” because they hold an identical template, with different textual/visual content. This structured content is stored in the database of the website, with a categorized structure. For example, a database table can hold these “content strings”

Product number:
Product name:
Product image url:
Marketing text:

Feature 1 title:
Feature 1 description:
Feature 1 image url:

Feature 10 title:
Feature 10 description:
Feature 10 image url:

If you have 200 products, then you would have a content matrix for 200 products, each identified by the product number, and it will be the core of the website.

On the other hand, you have template designs. With programming, the strings in the database can be defined where to be displayed on the page. i.e. Title on the left-top of the content area, and product image always on the leftside of title.

With this model, no matter how many pages you have, you can change your website design or navigation without worrying about the workload and costs. All it needs to be done is to generate a new design, and then roll-out your content from the database. Voila! You get a whole redesigned page, with developing a single template, instead of intervening and updating each page’s stylesheet, javascript and html one by one.

Database driven model also offers a lot more features, when you try to “compare” or “relate” products with each other. You can set “filters” too. All of these connection possibilities will give you the flexibility to develop more features in your website. All it needs the right programming using the “product information” stored in the database. It will allow you to pinpoint any product in terms of search, because you have IDs for each product, to reference them in various ways.

Also, you can use the same product content in various places in your website, rather than just using in the actual product pages. Again when programmed, the same product content can be used in a section which is called: “Highlighted Products” and it can simply set-up to show horizontally ordered tiles including below strings from the database, by inserting only the product IDs for those products you want to display.

Product title
Product description

To summarize, setting up a dynamic, database driven model to your website is not only easy to manage, but also leads huge time and money savings for companies. Considering the markets and needs are changing everyday in digital world, agile models are crucial, and will be open to be directed in any way you need.

Emre Gökalp

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