Lets take a look at what makes a web site popular. In my opinion, it takes useful information with a good interface.
“Useful information” is often useful because it’s dynamic and kept up-to-date. When the owners of a site continue to revise and produce new content for it, they are more likely to get the major hits. It’s hard work keeping a site updated, however. Since I started this page in 1995, I’ve let it get stale for as long as three years before updating it. When you see what goes into a big money web site, you know that while they’re expensive and time-consuming to produce, they do get the high traffic. But don’t get the idea that it takes tall dollars or constant effort on your part to have a popular, dynamic site!
Take a good look at the way they run things at eBay, for example. eBay is an incredibly dynamic web site—it changes by the minute. Items are constantly bought and sold. But the dynamic nature of eBay exists as a result of the community that uses it, not its creators. The makers of eBay are taking it easy. They’ve set up an infrastructure, and now it takes care of itself (for the most part) while they watch the money roll in.
Pretty smart, huh?
So how did eBay do it? Their site isn’t just HTML, of course. We’re seeing a lot more web sites today that have few or no actual HTML files. Web sites like eBay and IMDB are actually generated as they’re browsed through. Information is pulled out of a database and turned into an HTML file on-the-fly by a set of programs, usually called CGIs. These databased-backed web sites are the most powerful places on the Internet today, and I think they embody the ideas of the Internet and the Information Age. For more information about database-backed web sites, read what Philip Greenspun has to say in his online book about database-backed web sites. His web site, photo.net, is a pretty good example, too.
You probably have your own ideas about what you want to put on the Internet. Right now you may be saying, “…but all I want is a web page with some information about myself and maybe a resume or even some pictures of my newborn baby!” Well, don’t let my blathering about powerhouse web sites with dynamic content discourage you. It’s important to market yourself and share those photos with your friends over the Internet. It’s all in good fun anyhow.
Static content still makes up most of the Internet, in my opinion. Regardless of whether you’re taking the static or dynamic route, make sure you use HTML that is solid, lasting, and compatible with as much software as possible.