Understanding Web Development, The Basics

To understand web development One must first decide what they would like the site to do for them/their organization.

There are basic 4x types of site usage:

A Catalog (also know as a WebRoom)
A Storefront (kiosk)
A Lead Generator
An Information Exchange

A Catalog – this type of site is very useful when One is not trying to sell a product online but give their prospective client a catalog view of their products and or services. These types of sites do not update frequently in most cases and are built in HTML, but if they do update often a simple CMS (Content Management System) can be very useful.
A Storefront (aka eCommerce site) – this type of site sells goods and services directly on it. Customers can go online, order and pay for service/products. These types of sites almost always require some type of CMS.
A lead Generation site has the function of generating leads for sales people. Search Engine Optimization is a major factor in this type of development. Due to it’s very nature the primary objective is to be found by people searching for the particular good or service. This type of site generally will only use the CMS function in their blog/news page. A good practice on this type of site is to build it in a static platform (HTML) and add a CMS platform for the blog/news pages.
An Information exchange site has the function of keep those who need to know informed. Information can be readily access online. This type of site can vary from closed to the public (requiring a login to access content, to a public bulletin board site) to accessible through log in.
Types of Web Site Platforms, Static (HTML) and Dynamic

There a basically 2x types of sites, HTML and Dynamic.

HTML sites a built using “Flat files”. This means the content on the page is built into the page. There are CMS systems that use HTML. They will use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and a 3rd party server to allow the 3rd party server to access the files where they are hosted. This is NOT a preferred method as the editor is dependant on the accessing server.

Disadvantages of HTML

Sites using this technology can be very limited in function. Because it doesn’t use dynamic data, content management can be expensive and cumbersome. While HTML sites are harder to hack than dynamic ones, they are still vulnerable to hackers. However the risk is much lower than a dynamic platform.

Dynamic sites are usually written in a language called PhP. PhP is more robust than HTML in that it pulls information from a database stored on the server that is hosting the site. PhP pages are empty while they reside on the server and do not populate information until the browser requests it. Simply put, when you go to the link where the page is, the page calls on the database for the information to present.

Disadvantages of Dynamic Platforms

Because CMS allows a user to edit directly in the page (so to speak), it carries some vulnerability. Hackers will very often set their software to go out and look for sites with these systems and try to hack the password. This makes it very important to follow best practices when deploying this type of site. This includes updating the platform when an update comes out as well as updating any add-ons modules put into the platform for added functionality or security.

CMS Systems

CMS stands for Content Management Systems. This is a Dynamic platform that allows the user access to the database that is readable and editable with an un-coded interface/What You See Is What You Get, commonly referred to as “WYSIWYG” (usually looks something like a Word editing interface). Due to the complexity of this type of system, the international development community has created several premade platforms that can be used to build upon. These platforms are the result of literally millions of developer share technology. This creates a distinct advantage for SMB clients to have the same capability of larger corporations without the expense. These systems are the platform of choice for developers looking to create affordable web solutions for their clients that need a CMS.

Updates. CMS’s are developed by a worldwide community that updates when vulnerability is found in the platform. Because the web (Internet version 6) is constantly evolving and changing standards these updates are published by whichever organization is in control of the product and can be set to auto update. However, if there a customization in the files that are being updated, it is advisable to have developers deploy the update as it may break the site.

Platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and OScommerce are some of the most common platforms. These systems have literally tens thousands of man-hours in their development. These platforms save developers time by creating a framework that can relatively quickly be customized. Most developers will employ pre-made add-ons to modularly construct an end solution that would otherwise require many hours of hand coding. These plugins or add-ons are part of the framework of the development and also need to be updated from time to time.