Information & Instructions

Beyond HTML - Server Side Includes
by Izzy Goodman

This article assumes that you have already mastered basic HTML. If not, check our links for the excellent and free HTML lessons available.

A typical web site grows. It starts off with one or two pages, then expands as more content is added. Eventually there are many pages. Then the webmaster is faced with at several problems. First is navigation. How do you control the flow from page to page so that visitors can easily find what they are looking for and also easily find their way back? Second is the consistency of the look and feel. You want every page to be similar. You don't want visitors to get the feeling that the site was thrown together by a number of different people who didn't talk to each other. Third is a method of keeping the information up to date. Suppose you put your email ID on every page and then it changes. Do you really want to go through every page looking for the information and changing it? You want some method that allows you to enter standard information once and have it appear on every page.

There are different methods for accomplishing this. One method uses frames. What this means is that the first page of the site is actually a frame which contains other pages. One page is usually a thin column running down the left containing a menu, and the second is the rest of the page extending to the right. Each frame gets a name which is then used as the target. Just for a quick review, you can specify a target when opening a new HTML page. If your URL has no target, the page replaces the one already open. If there is a target, it replaces the page with that name. If the page hasn't been loaded, it loads a new page. For example:

<a href=pageone.html>Page One</a> - this would replace the page already loaded

<a href=pageone.html target="new">Page One</a> - this would either load a brand new page, leaving the existing one still open or (if the page called "new" had already been opened previously) will replace the contents of the existing page called "new."

<a href=pageone.html target=_blank>Page One</a> - this would always load a brand new page.

Suppose the webmaster names the left frame "menu" and the right frame "content." When the user clicks on a link in the menu on the left, the code would load the page in the area on the right. The HTML would look like:

<a href=pageone.html target="content">Page One</a>

Now each time an item in the menu is chosen, the column on the right changes, but the menu to the left remains in place. This makes navigation very easy. You can put your standard information in the menu frame and it now appears on every page. However, you still only have to change it once if a correction is needed.

But not all browsers support frames and search engines don't like them. True, most people are using the latest browsers. But when I first created my web site and used frames, I received quite a few emails from folks who couldn't navigate it. So why develop a site that from the outset is locking out a number of users? There is a better way and it is called Server Side Includes.

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