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Improving the User's Experience on ASP Built Sites

A Whitepaper on XBuilder


Content is king on the Internet. You hear that time and again. Good content attracts visitors who frequently return to sites that are interesting, relevant and entertaining. As content migrates to the web, developers have adopted Active Server Page technology, along with other dynamic site designs, because it is an efficient way to manage and deliver a growing content base to web site visitors. The dynamic database publishing system allows developers to grow a site quickly, by adding content to the database and associating it with a topic. More time is spent writing content and less formatting it.

However, dynamically generated web site publishing is not a perfect world. The dynamic driven database system behind many sites is very slow. The speed problem stems from the fact that every time a reader requests a page, that page is generated from a query to the database and must be executed. A page which must be built from a database query takes considerably longer to download than a static HTML page which is simply read from disk. On many publishing sites, however, the content doesn't usually change per reader, in fact some pages remain unchanged for months at a time. Is it really necessary to individually query databases over and over, when the resulting page is the same? Are server resources devoted to building these dynamic pages being needlessly used by performing the same task over and over?

The Problem
The problem facing many ASP developers is twofold: they need to find a way to easily and quickly modify the content in the database, and to find a way to deliver content without the time-consuming slowdowns from individual database queries.

Usability experts who test site format and delivery features are now telling us that some web development techniques have major negative impact on the businesses and organizations hosting web sites. Leading web research firms have recently established benchmarks that measure how long a user will wait for a page before the urge to click elsewhere takes over. Zona Research recently stated that 1/3 of shoppers will likely abandon a shopping site if catalog pages take longer than 8 seconds to download. For e-commerce sites with product information delivered from a dynamic database, slow page downloads can result in significantly lower sales revenues. For publishing sites counting on traffic to generate advertising revenue, the result is lower hit counts.

The New Way
XBuilder, a web site compiler, solves this performance problem. XBuilder compresses HTML pages for faster download at the same time as it traverses Active Server Pages creating static pages that can be dropped into a virtual directory and be served off a web server. XBuilder [db1]allows you to run both dynamic pages and static pages in the same virtual root, (see http://www.xbuilder.net). This allows you to convert content that doesn't change per user input or doesn't change frequently to a static HTML file and downloaded up to 20X faster than via a database query.

Anytime that you add, modify or delete any content block, you just rebuild the static pages using XBuilder's project file. XBuilder will recompile an entire site or compile on an incremental basis if only selected pages are updated.. A site of 10,000 pages can be compiled in under an hour.

Other Advantages
Building dynamic web sites and converting to static HTML has several other advantages. One advantage is that XBuilder enables large web sites to stage their content for review. Building a dynamic site on a staging server lets you add content such as an article or a Frequently Asked Question without immediately going live. This type of staging decreases the chance for error. If you use the dynamic site to review the look of the content within your established format, you can scan for errors or changes and use XBuilder to build the new pages to the live site. Staging web sites on a dynamic basis provides an extra step that improves the quality of the web site prior to going live.

Search engines present one of the biggest headaches to developers of Active Server Page sites. The problem is two fold. First, commercial search engines don't usually crawl dynamically generated pages, and Microsoft Index Server doesn't index the content that comes from the database. Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) doesn't traverse web pages that are generated with anything besides .htm or. html tags. This means that if you create pages with ASP your pages will not appear in Yahoo's Index. However, if your site has been complied to static pages, you won't have these problems. The potential for commercial search engines to promote your site is tremendous, so a solution based on building your site with XBuilder provides an advantage to look at seriously.

Secondly, Microsoft Index Server doesn't index the content of dynamic web pages, it only indexes the dynamic file off the hard drive. Doing this means that pages are not executed through the Active Server. Since the page does not execute, the data is not drawn from the database so it is not available to index. What gets indexed is the Active Server Page script contained in the .asp page instead of the data from the database.

Conclusion
Ultimately, the best web design is the one that meets the needs of the end user who still suffers from slow page delivery. As web developers, you should test your web site design across all common connection types and use techniques that optimize the experience for the end user.

For more information on how XBuilder improves site performance, go to http://www.xbuilder.net and read the case studies and white papers at http://help.xbuilder.net/xbuilder/htmlhelp/start.asp.


(c) 1999 Sign Me Up Marketing http://www.xbuilder.net [db1] What do you mean by this? This really isn't a feature of xBuilder.


Article Information
Article Title: Improving the User's Experience on ASP Built Sites
Article Author: Scott Mitchell
Article URL: http://www.4GuysFromRolla.com/webtech/xbuilder.shtml


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