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Choose the Best Programming Languages to Design your Website

When designing a website, you have several decisions to make. One of those being: What web programming languages should you choose for your website's design? Well that can be a difficult question to answer and the answer may also depend greatly on who you ask. For example, if you ask a PHP and HTML expert, of course they are going to suggest that you use mainly PHP and HTML. But what is the right answer?

The first thing you are going to want to ask yourself is: Does your site need to be dynamic or static? Confused? Well, let's break this question down. Dynamic websites are sites that are interactive in some way. Dynamic websites most likely have forms and/or digital media such as sound or video. Static websites on the other hand are very plain and are not user interactive. They have no forms, little or no video and sound and generally only require one or two languages which most often will be HTML and CSS or just plain HTML.

If you are making a static website, you can often do this on your own. You can use an HTML editor or a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. The very popular WYSIWYG editors do all of the coding for you! Just plug in your content using a user friendly interface and presto, you have a website. Now of course to make it look professional, you are going to need to hire a HTML and CSS expert. While CSS is not absolutely necessary to make a static web site, it is very helpful and makes the layout much neater. CSS is also the new W3 standard for many style techniques, such as centering text. The minimum requirement necessary to make a static web page is simply using HTML. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML began to surface for public use in late 1991 and has become the number one standard in web design. HTML is without question the best language to use for simple static web page designs. CSS is the probably the most valuable accompanying component to HTML. They go hand in hand.

If on the other hand, you need to make a dynamic website, your choices are not so simple. Dynamic websites can be created with a large number of web design languages. Below we will list some of those techniques in a loose order of popularity and/or relevancy. First, it is worth mentioning that DHTML is often synonymous with dynamic website creation. DHTML or Dynamic HTML, is not actually a web design language. It is more of a technique or a combination of several languages. DHTML consists of:

The Four Parts of DHTML:

  1. HTML

  2. The DOM - Document Object Model

  3. Scripts - Such as JavaScript

  4. CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

While all of these elements are not necessary to make a web site dynamic, DHTML is a good example of dynamic website design. In fact some would say that the best languages for dynamic website creation would involve more than what is included in the DHTML model. Some developers would argue that less web design languages are needed. The truth is that the minimum requirements to make a webpage dynamic in nature are that you need only two basic language elements. Basically, you will need to use HTML and a scripting language of your choice. As promised, here is a list of languages that could be used to create dynamic web pages. There are several more in existence and more coming out all of the time, but these are the most relevant and in a haphazard order of relevancy:

HTML - Hypertext Markup Language. Main ingredient used to create static and dynamic web pages. HTML began becoming popular in 1991. It is a text based language that utilizes a wrapper/tag structure. HTML consists of text statements wrapped in tags which define the different elements of the language. HTML is, by far, one of the easiest web design languages to learn and use.

XHTML - eXtensible Hypertext Markup Language. XHTML is a separate language from HTML that is a reformulation of HTML 4.01. It continues to be developed. I would say to use html if you want to be given some leg room when writing, but if you like to be neat and precise, XHTML may be for you. XHTML is basically the same as HTML, but there are stricter rules, such as you must use all lower case for your tags and all non empty elements require a close tag and all empty elements are closed using a space and a forward slash. Also all attributes must be quoted.

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets have become the W3 standard for setting up your HTML style. By style, we mean the way elements are aligned on the page, their color and behavior.

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) did not really come about until 1997, and is preceded by PHP/FI which explains why the first version of PHP by itself is PHP3.0. PHP5 came out in 2004 and is driven its popular ZEND engine. I Personally like to use PHP because it works great on any system and it is a simple language where often the long complicated solution is not better than the short and sweet solution. In fact, I find that short solutions are a great deal better than long drawn out ones. where as in other languages, long solutions are sometimes the norm.

JavaScript - One of the best scripting languages developed in 1995 by SUN corp.. It is one of a few languages that can be mixed right in with your HTML without having to create an external file. However, it can be used in an external file too. JavaScript often works hand in hand with ASP

ASP (active server pages) - Microsoft product that is language independent and is composed of separate scripts that influence your web page. This is server side scripting where as JavaScript is client side.

Adobe Flash - A combination of internet 2 way streaming audio and video technology and Action script scripting lang. The biggest problem with Flash is that it is not very compatible to LINUX systems. Linux systems make up a large portion of web servers making flash useless on many systems.

JSP (Java Server Pages) - use servlets to modify the webpage before displaying it. Servlets are small script like code segments.

CGI (Common Gateway Interface) - one of the oldest scripting languages and good to use for the beginner because of the number of free scripts available I would recommend a more modern language if you intend to learn a language though. This technology is going to be around for some time just because the great number of existing pages that depend on it, however the web design language is being replaced by more modern solutions.

Cold fusion - Very expensive and better suited to large companies, but a very powerful language for serving large websites.

Perl - Scripting language came about in 1987 and has developed into a very popular web design language for text processing, internet services, graphical programming, etc. I would recommend learning this if you intend to be a professional web design service provider, otherwise, it may be a little too complicated for the average person.

Java - Uses applets to control your pages invented in 1995 and must have a java capable browser. Java is another popular language that perhaps is best left to the pros because it is hard to learn and understand.

That is an overview of the more common languages that you may be considering for your web design language decisions. I listed them in order of relevancy. For example, at the beginning of the list is HTML and XHTML because almost all of you will be using one of these and HTML is pretty much an absolutely necessary component to designing any website. Then I listed CSS because it has become the standard way of styling HTML documents, so while CSS is not absolutely necessary to design a web page, most of you will be using it. I then list PHP and JavaScript. I find that when creating a dynamic website, that if I use a combination of HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript, that I can accomplish just about any desired solution and have it be fairly cross-browser combatable. Another important component that needs to be mentioned is the database. Most dynamic websites are going to require a database. My preference is Mysql, but Microsoft's solution, Access, is also a popular database choice.

In conclusion, the answer to the question, what languages do I need to design a website, depends on the situation at hand. If you need a static website, beginners can easily create a simple website containing both text and images using just HTML. I also recommend CSS for slightly more advanced static pages. For dynamic pages, While there are probably thousands of combinations of web design languages to choose from, my ultimate solution is usually a combination of HTML(or XHTML), CSS, PHP, JavaScript to verify form data and a Mysql database. That should do it. Of course making web design language decisions needs to be based on the situation. When designing a complicated and/or expensive website, these choices should be left up to a professional web designer.

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