When we write
code that makes the computer do something, we are programming.
(On the web, our programming is usually really scripting, but
that's more precise than we need to be and debatable anyway.)
Web programs make the user's computer do something, or they make
the server do something. If your program makes the user's computer
do something, it is client-side; if it makes the server
do something, it is server-side.
HTML is the
basic document language of the web. Writing HTML is not programming:
it is just an ugly version of word processing or desktop publishing.
In fact, writing HTML is a lot like word processing and desktop
publishing in the bad old days before WYSIWYG (What You See Is
What You Get) graphical word processors and desktop publishers.
If you use any version of WordPerfect, you can still Reveal
Codes and see all the tags that define the appearance and
structure of your document.
from multiple personality disorder. Dr. H. T. Jekyll describes
the structure of a document: e.g., <p></p> indicates
that the enclosed content is a paragraph; <ol></ol>
indicates an ordered list with items denoted by <li></li>.
Mr. M. L. Hide tries to say what the document should look like:
e.g., <font></font> tags prescribe font color, size,
and face of their content; bgcolor and align attributes prescribe
background color and text alignment.
CSS is designed
only to say what a document should look like. CSS has a richer
vocabulary for saying what HTML should look like than HTML itself.
CSS and HTML don't do anything, they just get processed and displayed.
Being Clean, Feeling Great
starting a new site or a new section of a site, you should seriously
consider using HTML and CSS only for their strengths. HTML does
a fair job of describing the structure of a document, but it only
works for appearance by a lot of weak hacks (spawning endless
tutorials and tips!). Ideally, you wouldn't even use a table for
anything except a table of data (see http://glish.com/css/ for
templates and tutorials), but that may be too much of a jump.
If you don't want to jump all the way into CSS layout, try using
a table for the basic layout of the page but use CSS for your
text styles. Instead of six or eight non-breaking space entities
to indent paragraphs, just write a style rule to indent all paragraphs,
or only some you choose on the basis of position in the document
or a class attribute. Instead of writing the same font tag over
and over again to make your headings large, Arial, and burgundy,
use <h1>, <h2>, or whichever heading is relevant and
write a style rule making them all the right look. CSS has a bit
of a learning curve at first, but using CSS as exclusively as
possible for specifying the appearance of your site will help
you make your site look good and keep your code clean. When you
discover how easy it is to make style changes site-wide, you'll
It Would Be
Really Cool If . . .
thinking about a proposed feature of an individual page in terms
of it would be really cool if it could do X, X probably
do something, but to your server they are only so much text. Anything
that could be called a special effect on a web page, if it requires
include pull-down menus, moving an image or block of text around
on a page, and the ever-popular switching out images.
is easy to cut-and-paste and not too difficult to begin learning.
It is, however, harder than HTML or CSS, and building a deep understanding
of the differences between all major web browsers can take years.
If your requirements are not unusually advanced, you can sidestep
Dreamweaver. Adobe GoLive has similar functionality, but for the
same amount of money you would be well served to use industry-standard
Dreamweaver. Microsoft Front Page is inadequate for developing
sloppy, and harder-to-use pages.
Java Applets and Flash
two other major client-side technologies: Java Applets and Flash.
effects, but any of the three can be combined with server-side
technologies to produce complete applications. Java performs poorly
for special effects and should be avoided. Flash was made for
special effects and works well for the purpose, but perhaps more
than any other web technology it has been over-used and abused
to the detriment of usability, efficiency, and even taste on the
Internet. If you start developing Flash (you will need Macromedia
Flash MX), you will have to work hard to resist the temptation
to create effects just because you can. Seek guidance from an
experienced developer or designer who began his or her career
with the web: not multimedia CDs, not television, not print.
If you want
to build an advanced application involving extensive interaction
between client and server or just incredible effects like
that site over there, but you don't already have some idea
of which set of technologies would best fit your needs, you need
to hire someone to help you or do it for you.
you may run across VBScript on the web. VBScript is a Microsoft-only
is virtually never a good reason to use it, since it excludes
users unnecessarily and promotes weaker coding.
If your web
site needs to do anything with information supplied by visitors,
you will need server-side programming. Basic examples of functionality
requiring server-side programming include guest books, forums,
and contact forms. Popular scripts to implement all of the above
are freely available for most kinds of servers. If you need a
loan application, a library of content, a calendar, or anything
that facilitates a group of people working together, though, you
may find ready-made solutions unavailable or inadequate to your
server-side technology is complicated. Depending on where you
are working or what server you already have an account with, your
choice may be made for you. If the choice is up to you, however,
you'll need to choose between Java Server Pages, Active Server
Pages, ASP.Net, Cold Fusion, PHP, Perl, and many others. All other
features being equal, a web host offering PHP or Perl is nearly
always going to be cheaper than any of the alternatives. Perl
is complicated and not really designed for web development, so
I would recommend against it. If you only need to do simple things,
you will find PHP very simple to use, and there are numerous high-quality
solutions to common needs freely available on the web. I have
been using PHP for years to develop increasingly complex web applications,
and I find it to be powerful and flexible enough for those as
well. I have also worked extensively with Active Server Pages
(ASP), but ASP is now obsolete, replaced by ASP.Net, so it is
not a good choice for new projects. ASP.Net is reported to eliminate
many of the weaknesses of ASP, but it is still in the early-adoption
phase and comes with a higher server price tag.
Beware of Geeks
want to use information from your visitors for any purpose, you
must remember that you can't trust them to provide you with the
right information, or even with safe information. Providing your
before the form actually submits is good practice, but if your
is insufficient to insure that every complete form submission
actually includes an e-mail address. Perhaps none of the wonderful
people who usually visit your site would want to give you bad
data, but some computer geek with a bad attitude might give you
the pleasure of his company, or someone's computer may be limited
won't stop them from feeding bad data into your system that could
cause errors in your database or even compromise your system,
depending on your application. If anything about the data matters,
it has to be checked on the server side, which may be the best
reason to learn at least the basics of some server-side scripting
language as soon as possible.
by Joshua Paine
scripting is also the better way to do a hundred little things
about how to make up for the fact that you aren't handling the
functionality on the server side. Inserting a random quote or
picture into a page, displaying the current date, and maintaining
standard headers and footers, for example, are all trivial with
any server-side scripting language, and really should never be
the near future, this article will be sprinkled with links throughout.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about anything mentioned
here, just go to google.com and type in your topic of interest.