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The Basics of Web Design > The Back End

The Back End

Browser and server technology has seen major advances over the last years, and developing a Web site that serves dynamically created pages is easier than ever before. HTML authoring tools, such as Adobe GoLive®, offer the ability to utilize such application server technology as ASP (Active Server Pages), JSP (JavaServer Pages), PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), and even shopping cart solutions. In the past, whenever a Web site utilized a form—an email subscription list, for example—the Web designer had to get a programmer, who would write a script that saved the data on the server. All this can now be done by a tech-savvy designer working directly in GoLive without having to edit the HTML code directly. I strongly recommend that you check out the form creation features in GoLive. The following sections present some other core server technologies that you should be familiar with.

PERL: If you sign up for an email newsletter, your information is sent to a server. Chances are that when you click the Submit button on the subscription Web page, a PERL script is triggered to save the data that you submit—that is, to store it in a database or text file. PERL (which stands for Practical Extraction and Report Language) and CGI (the Common Gateway Interface) are often discussed in one breath, but they are two different things. PERL is a programming language; CGI is a protocol that handles the data transfer between a browser and a server. Since PERL is free and works on every server, many Web developers use it to access the CGI to save and store the form data that a user has sent. Even though PERL is relatively easy to learn, it comes with a challenge: Debugging and installing a PERL script can be tricky because there are many variables that can change from server to server. When you download one of the many available PERL scripts to use on your site, you have to know how your server is set up; but aside from that, it is worth learning the basics of PERL.


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