Project Management

New to Web development? Here's a glossary of basics

Are you new to Web development, or are you looking to make a Web site more dynamic? Get up to speed on basic terms with this glossary.

If you're new to building Web sites or if you're moving toward creating dynamic Web pages, you may run across some new terminology. Use this glossary of basic terms to get up to speed on Web development.

Let the list begin
Dynamic Web pages are assembled on the fly by applications or programs. They can be programmed using Java or created by user choices and personalization data.

Typically, dynamic Web sites rely on some sort of database to store the information that will appear, although that isn't always necessary. Communication between the Web pages and the database occur in real-time, reducing the number of pages you have to write. A simple example of a nondatabase dynamic Web page is one that is put together through several server-side include requests.

Interactive sites are often dynamic. Interactive means simply that the page changes in response to user input. In the simplest sense, interaction can be scrolling down the page and clicking linked text, images, and image maps. Interaction can also be clicking buttons, filling out menus, adding text to boxes, and selecting from drop-down lists. In these examples, basic interaction is built in to computer desktops and HTML markup language. The link is the most basic and most significant development in computing. It makes sharing information on the Web possible.

More complex interactions would be applets that let you move items on a Web page or complete financial transactions on the Web, such as banking or ordering products.

In contrast, static Web pages—where an entire page is created manually and served up on request—are more boring. They offer users little interaction and not much excitement or active experience within the page.

Scripts are programs that are written in a scripting language and run in real time without being compiled into an executable file. JavaScript and VBScript are examples of scripting languages. Scripting languages use an interpreter to run. An interpreter is a program that examines each line of code, checks its syntax, and then executes the code. The JavaScript interpreter is built into popular Web browsers like Netscape, Opera, and Internet Explorer. On the server side of the rendering process, rather than on the client side, Perl is a popular scripting language.

Scripts can help create dynamic Web sites by passing information to and from databases and by changing the page in response to user input. Web-based chats and discussion boards are two dynamic applications of scripts.

Access is Microsoft’s relational database program. It can be used to maintain databases on Web sites.

ASP, or Active Server Pages, is a Microsoft system that works with its Internet Information Server (IIS) to dynamically process data for Web pages. ASP pages are run through a server-based interpreter before being sent to users. These pages use a file extension of .asp.

CGI, or Common Gateway Interface, dictates how Web servers and Web browsers handle information from Web browsers. CGI scripts can be written in many languages, such as Perl or C. The scripts are usually placed in a CGI directory and are run on the server. The script returns a response to the browser, which displays the result.

ColdFusion, made by Macromedia, uses a ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML) similar to HTML to create Web pages with extended abilities. ColdFusion pages use the file extension .cfm. They are parsed on a ColdFusion Application Server, which is installed on the Web server. ColdFusion Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) based on the Web site editor HomeSite.

ColdFusion tags allow developers to create pages that communicate with databases, generate mail, and perform other dynamic functions. For more information, read the ColdFusion Developer’s Journal.

Stay tuned
For more dynamic and interactive Web site terminology, watch for more upcoming articles. You can learn more about building dynamic Web sites by reading this Daily Drill Down.

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