XML: It's Not Your Father's HTML | 3
XML for Web Site Production
Many Web site creators are realizing that, as challenging as the initial creation of the Web site might be, it is even more difficult to maintain the site and keep it current as content changes. An increasingly common approach for managing this situation is to separate the architecture of the site (how the information is organized and how users navigate through it) from the presentation (what kind of graphics and layout are used) and the content.
While there are high-end systems that will do this for you (such a Vignette's Story Server), there are many home grown solutions out there too.
XML is an ideal technology for this kind of Web site production. The general idea is to write the content in XML and store it in some form of database. To actually create the site, HTML templates are used. The site is generated by pouring the XML content into these templates, which have "hooks" in them indicating where the various bits of XML should go. The result is typically ordinary HTML which can then be published to the Web server and delivered to standard browsers. The site generation can be done off-line or on demand, the latter creating personalized web pages in response to user requests.
In its simplest form, the content database is just a collection of files. For more sophisticated needs, you would use a content management system such as those offered by Inso (DynaWeb), POET (Content Management Suite) or Object Design (eXcelon). Oracle has also announced support for XML in its upcoming Oracle8i product.
XML offers major benefits in this scenario. Content contributors "the authors" don't need access to the actual Web pages of the site. Nor do they need to understand HTML. XML tools that can be customized for their particular type of information can make the authoring task painless while ensuring that their content has valid structure so that it will fit smoothly into the downstream processing. The webmasters benefit because they can define a site structure once and not have to tinker with it when new content is added or modified. Updating a site becomes a much more automated process, one that does not require resources as expensive as those required to create it in the first place.
Comments are welcome
Revised: February 16, 1999