LEARN A LITTLE. GROW A LOT.
Scripts, also called languages, come in lots of formats used for different web-based purposes. Some popular scripts include CGI, ASP, Perl, PHP, HTML and other programming languages intended to create the look of your web site and define how the web site interacts with the site visitor. Indeed, interactivity is a two-way street. Visitors don’t just interact with web sites. Web sites interact with visitors in many ways from both the server- and client-side of web communication, and using the right script to encourage the most desired response from visitors will set your site apart.
PHP: Creating Personalized Pages For Your Best Customers
Your best customers are the ones who come back a second, third and forth time. Repeat buyers. And each time they access your site, you learn more about the interests of individual buyers.
PHP scripting is a server side, HTML scripting language that allows you to create personalized, dynamic site pages. Dynamic? Yep, pages that are different for each visitor. Amazon uses dynamic PHP scripting to maximum advantage. When you log on (as a repeat buyer) you’re greeted by name and suggested items for purchase are offered. And when your best friend logs on to the same dynamic site page, s/he will see a different page with different recommendations for purchase.
PHP is open source software and is built to sync up with site building templates, equipping even the novice user to create personalized pages based on visitor information stored in the site’s database. That’s how Amazon knows you’re a fan of spy novels or baroque music. All of your buying history is stored in Amazon’s database and when you log on, information is pulled from the d-base for presentation on the site skin. PHP style.
This is just one example of how sites interact with visitors, offering a personalized welcome, personalized page appearance and other dynamic, on-the-fly information.
ASP Design and Object Oriented Programs
ASP stands for active server pages which, in many ways, are similar to PHP scripted site pages. ASP is a Microsoft, server-side script that employs built-in or embedded “objects” to create dynamic (changing) web pages.
An object is one unit of run time data storage – run time defining the actual operation of a specific computer program from its launch to completion. Object oriented programs (OOPs) are written using various run time data storage methodologies that enable the program designer to write code in which objects interact with each other to create the dynamics of an interactive site page.
A typical computer program is simply a list of commands or instructions “telling” the computer to first do this, next do this and so on down the line until the entire program has completed its run time.
Unlike more traditional forms of programming, objects embedded in programs are able to send and receive messages from other objects. Each object can receive, process and send data to other objects. This enables these programs to access database information to create the personalized interactivity found on many of today’s user-friendly web sites.
Each object created by a site programmer can be thought of as a little part of a larger machine, with all parts interacting to create a function – the thing the machine does, i.e. the function of a lawn mower is to cut grass, but to perform that function the lawn mower must have all its parts properly situated and operating together as a single machine. The more objects (machine parts) the more complex the function of the machine, or in the case of web site design, the more interactive and user friendly the web site.
Perl – Processing Faster and Smoother
Perl stands for practical extraction and report language. Like PHP and ASP, it’s a server side
As the public grows more web savvy, the expectations of web users increase. Perl scripting is not embedded within HTML (hyper text markup language), the most common web site scripting language employed today. Perl scripting is not downloaded to the user’s browser but, instead, remains on the host server. This cuts download times and improves site performance. Perl scripting is activated by commands embedded in the underlying HTML code that defines everything from the look of the web site to its functionality – from simple to extremely complex.
Perl is used primarily for processing text and, as such, is often employed in the creation of CGI scripts.
Without CGI programming, we wouldn’t be able to “communicate” with a web site’s host server. CGI stands for common gateway interface. A CGI is a web protocol used to receive server commands and deliver data on demand to the user’s browser. For example, when you complete an online form for submission, you’re activating a CGI program and utilizing an effective means of running programs within your browser, i.e. on your computer.
Some of the most common programs activated by CGI scripting include Java applets, Java scripts (programs) and Active X, used to run animations and even create web-based games for entertainment. Collectively, these programs are called client-side applications because they run directly within the user’s browser rather than server-side apps that run from the web site’s host server.
One common complaint about CGI scripting is that each time the user activates a CGI program, a new process or function is started. This won’t cause a problem for smaller, simpler and less frequented sites. However, because CGI scripting operates on the client side, it’s cumbersome for busy websites and may well degrade site performance because of all of that extra download time required to download and install the CGI script within the user’s browser.
Does All of This Confuse You?
Fortunately, you don’t need to know a thing about scripting languages and defining site functionality thanks to the creation of template-based modules that simply hook up with the HTML code that defines your web site.
For example, quality web hosting companies provide PHP modules such as phppgadmin to oversee the operation of your site from an easy-to understand, console-like interface. Want to add a bulletin board for quick postings? phpBB is designed to plug directly into your HTML code or, if you aren’t writing HTML code from scratch, phpBB plugs in to your web site design template with a click.
To create dynamic site pages that greet return visitors by name, a quality web host will provide both the database, MySQL Server, for example, and PHP interface that allows you to immediately access d-base information for display within the visitor’s browser.
The point is, if you’re just starting out on the web, you may be put off by the alphabet soup of scripting languages (HTML, XML, PHP, CGI, ASP, etc.) but you can relax by selecting a hosting company that provides PHP modules and CGI wizards – pre-programmed solutions that enable even a novice to create more friendly, faster functioning web sites – even if you don’t know a thing about writing script or embedding objects.
Look for a web host that offers an expansive tool kit and 24/7 tech support if you’re making your first foray into the world of e-commerce. You’ll save a ton of money on site design, you’ll be able to change and update your site as newer versions of scripting languages become available (saving more money) and you’ll be able to create a fully dynamic, interactive site that works with site visitors to encourage sales, speed up downloads and enhance the on-site experience regardless of what browser is employed by the visitor.
It may sound like a lot of geek-speak, but if you can click a mouse, you can design a site that rivals the most up-to-date, interactive, feature-rich sites on the W3.
And no one will know you’re a beginner. In fact, you’ll look like a pro from the get-go.