When you visit a website, your browser sends a request to the Web server for the content of each page you view. The Web server responds with the page requested and your browser renders it for you to see and interact with. However, what happens between your browser requesting the page and receiving it determines whether the page is dynamic or not.
Dynamic contentDynamic content is website content that is delivered in a particular way. In this article we will explain what dynamic content is, how it is achieved and its relative advantages/ disadvantages.
DatabasesIn most dynamic websites, the content is modelled within a database system. The data comprising the website content in such cases can involve numbers, text and references to media items stored on the Web server. Many businesses use a single database to store their data, which may include retail items, client details and other commercial records. In this case, a company can create more than one system to access and interact with this data.
For ExampleA company could use a desktop program for their employees, which uses the same database as the website for customer use. Internet newspapers and magazines also store their data in databases, in many cases utilizing Content Management Systems (CMSs) to build their sites on top of a data store.
ScriptsWith dynamic content, the function of a website involves programming scripts. When the server receives a request from the user's browser for a page on the site, it executes a server side script in a language such as PHP, ASP or Java. This script may do a number of things, but will typically query the database for the page content, then build the resulting data into a page using HTML markup. Finally, the server sends the newly constructed page to the browser that issued the request, also known as the client.
Although dynamic development is a common approach to Web building now, this was not always the case. Before dynamic technologies became so prevalent, static websites were the norm. In a static site, the pages are already built and are stored on the Web server waiting to be sent to the user for viewing.
From the end-user's point of view the process is irrelevant, all they see is the Web page. However, what has happened to deliver the page a user sees is fundamentally different for dynamic content. Essentially, dynamic content is content that is constructed when the client requests it, rather than already being structured as with the static model.
Advantages to Dynamic ContentDynamic content offers a number of generic advantages over static content, hence its enormous growth as the Web has evolved. Dynamic sites offer a potentially distinct user experience with each visit, since the page content is fetched anew every time a browser requests it. With a dynamic site, the content, or data, is all stored at a single location. This brings the "single point of change" advantage, meaning that data updates only need to happen in one place, with the entire site fetching the data from the same location, i.e. the database. When combined with interactive technologies at client side, dynamic content can also create sites that are more engaging than their static counterparts.
Disadvantages to Dynamic ContentThere is really only one disadvantage to dynamic content, and that relates to the technologies required to deliver it. While most people can pick up basic skills for static development, for dynamic development you really need programming skills. This often means that companies need to hire services from professional developers rather than carrying out the work in-house. The requirement for this expertise also includes maintaining sites in the long run.
ConclusionYou will see dynamic content on almost any website you visit, although you may not be aware of it. Dynamic content is the rule now rather than the exception, and is an essential feature of most successful website projects. By utilizing dynamic technologies in association with additional tools such as CMS programs, individuals and organizations can create an efficient, appealing Web presence.
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