Web Content Management

02 Dec 2019 - Richard Horridge

2019-12-02 Mon 09:04

Browser Wars

Web Browser Market Share (© Wereon CC-BY-SA-3.0)

The Internet has changed quite a lot during my lifetime and is virtually unrecognisable now.

I personally feel fortunate to have grown up before everyone carried permanently online computers in their pockets. Information wasn't always this readily accessible. Before broadband, we used to have to dial a telephone number through a modem to use the internet - it took over a minute to establish a connection! Once online, page load times were long - several seconds for a basic website, which most of them were at that time.

There was no Google Chrome or Firefox - almost everyone used Internet Explorer as a result of the first browser war. Javascript was relatively minimal, with embedded Macromedia Flash and Java providing dynamic content.

In the mid-90s, Content Management Systems were fairly unusual - many people wrote web pages directly in HTML. This was largely as a result of the browser wars - different browsers behaved differently, and writing a web page which displayed the same on all browsers, was (as anyone who still has to support IE6 knows) almost impossible.

In the 2000s, with the web opening up, more services began to arrive, such as the familiar WordPress. With support for Javascript in major browsers becoming more standardised and successive web standards, a number of these would come into use as the web matured.

Many Content Management Systems allow everything to be done through the browser - part of a trend towards everything being a web application. For this site, I chose a different approach - a static site generator, Jekyll, hosted on GitLab Pages.

This setup, in addition to being free, allows me to write my pages and blog posts in org-mode, a high-level markup language. These pages are exported to HTML and templated using Jekyll, enforcing a strict separation between presentation and content.

It has its disadvantages, however - as it is a static site generator it does not allow me to run any callbacks on the web server itself. There is no database backend to handle requests. If I ever want to add, for example, blog comments, I will have to handle the dynamic requests externally.

I may soon have need of a more sophisticated solution. In addition to having dynamic capabilities, it must be possible for non-technical users to edit and create content. For this a full-scale content management system, such as WordPress, Wix or Ghost, is required.

I intend to self-host so Wix isn't an option. I have prior experience with WordPress but Ghost seems to be reliable and I have friends that have built websites with it (such as https://www.ubmc.co.uk/). With a reliable hosting platform, a backup plan and correctly configured TLS, it should prove effective for my use cases!

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