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on the other hand I could just use a mature content management system

I just had an epiphany of sorts; a vision of how to turn web page design into an exercise in object-oriented plug and play. I can keep the whole system in my head for a few seconds at a time…

The basic reason for this is that well-designed sites end up having a lot of code repetition: to make navigation bars, include style sheets, etc. On the presentation side, that’s just the Way it Is; it’s a necessary consequence of the design of HTML. But on the design side, you don’t necessarily need to do that; you can write a series of classes representing each major element of common design; extend them to customize them, or leave them as default. Then, you plug the ones you need together into your overall object, and each page is generated automatically. Change the design in one place, and your whole site gets the tweak. At the lowest level of granularity, you end up loading html fragments consisting only of the content of each page; the parts that are different from every other page. All the common elements are maintained perfectly, and automatically.

It has downsides. Each page is generated on the fly each time it is requested, regardless of how much dynamic content there actually is. This is going to bog things down on the server side if your site gets popular; it might be better to use a movable type-style method which generates the pages into static text. Even so… I might sit down and design this sometime soon. It has the potential to be something big.

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