Our client had a website with many hundreds of pages of HTML and dynamic content. Many of the pages had similar format but there were always enough differences to make the site look irregular. Furthermore, data entry personnel were responsible for much of the dynamic content which changed at a rate of around 200 page changes per month.
The website was hosted on a SunOS machine and managed remotely using SSH and FTP using Windows machines
Since the page irregularities were the paramount issue to the client, we tackled them first. The solution was to work with a graphic artist and come up with a standard page layout, complete with images, buttons, bullets, and navigation gifs. Then we produced a suite of tools to merge the content with the templates.
This merging process allowed us to completely separate the content from the page layout. This separation allowed us to produce a concept of page “skins” that we could change at will with minimal work from the regular HTML programmers.
Most of the dynamic pages were produced with Perl CGI programs so they were converted to use the templates as well.
The next step was to deal with the content produced and maintained by the data entry personnel. This was a bit trickier since these employees didn’t know much about HTML and had even less interest in learning. The solution here was to produce a few more tools for the suite that formatted new HTML pages whenever the data entry personnel updated the content in the database. This required having select fields for the data entry personnel, such as “header”, “subject”, “date”…
Obviously, this new data-driven layout greatly enhanced the usability of the client’s data and allowed them to leverage their data entry employees better by producing more content with easier data maintenance.
Platforms: Windows, SunOS, SSH, FTP