How to Create and Manage Thousands of Offline Web Pages
Published: Thursday, February 9th, 2012 21:38 p.m.
Your company website may only consist of six pages today. Yet, imagine if you wanted to grow your content to over six hundred web pages. How would you make alterations to all pages at once, without some kind of content management system? It would simply be impractical….
One of the challenges for new webmasters is how to manage all of their web pages in a structured and organised way. Many novices opt for a database driven solution, such as a WordPress or Drupal content management system. Database connected websites provide an easy to set up, fill in the blanks type method of posting content on the web. However, over the years I have found that relying upon a third-party script means working within the boundaries of that script, in terms of it's limitations regarding website design and promotion. The third party script may change as security flaws may be exposed, leaving Webmasters to upgrade, install bug fixes and hope it all works. Alternatively, some people purchase off-the-shelf HTML templates, allowing novices to 'fill in the gaps'. These are great for small brochure websites but are usually quite restrictive if different web pages need to look or behave differently, or scale in volume.
Instead, I prefer a more flexible method of generating static or semi-dynamic webpages, using a PC-based web publishing software tool called Webmerge. Just to be clear, I am not an affiliate of this company! However, after using Webmerge to create and manage thousands of pages of content over the years, I feel I should sing its praises as an invaluable and incredibly flexible way of managing lots of web pages. There are probably other similar software tools on the market. The primary advantage is that you can flexibly adjust on-page elements of your entire website, while retaining full control of all web design aspects of your HTML. Whereas, altering the source code of database connected systems can sometimes be restrictive, tricky, time consuming and inflexible.
If you have been designing websites for more than 10 years or so as I have, it is likely you have changed your mind and wanted to improve the website design and look and feel over time. Webmerge software allows me to dynamically generate an unlimited number of web pages from a database or text file. This means I can create a standard HTML template(s) with all my relevant design aspects and combine it with a single text file, to make my webpages. If I make a mistake or change my mind, I simply rebuild the site on the fly. I manage one site with over 1500 pages which can be rebuild on my PC within 2 minutes. If you are not using includes, you can still build hundreds or even thousands of static files (such as .htm Web pages) in minutes. Static flat files have a slight disadvantage in that you will need to keep FTP'ing all your updated pages to a site). However, if your website is constructed using a PHP, ASP, or ASPX file structure, you will only need to upload new pages. It is quick to learn for novices and professionals alike.
By combining a standard Excel spreadsheet with column headings (representing individual Webmerge html tags), and rows (representing individual web pages) - you can quickly rebuild multiple elements within any webpage and on the fly. This basic design process can be enhanced by specifying 'if, then, else' instructions in your Excel spreadsheet. This allows you to decide which content should appear on which groups of web pages. You soon realise that managing hundreds or thousands of pages can be achieved flexibly and easily.
So control, flexibility and design speed are the key benefits of using off-line content management system. For example, if you're going through any type of re-branding exercise, then by using web publishing software you only need to make minimal changes to your HTML template. Likewise, over the years I have had to respond to changes in Webmaster guidelines regarding on page optimisation. These are the 'dos and don'ts' of Webmaster design. For example, I have been able to customize my HTML templates to optimise them for new quality related factors. These changes include changing the internal linking structure of the site and optimising a website to increase page loading speed. It also includes removing old HTML tags and replacing them with a completely CSS driven design, image optimisation, inclusion of HTML 5 tags, marking up data for Schema.org and many more. All these changes usually involve applying the same change, multiple times and to all pages. There is no way I could have achieved most of them by relying on a database connected, third-party content management system.