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InformIT Visual Tutorial 1: The Big Picture

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In this first article of a new InformIT series, Nick and Nancy V. Flor help Web designers deepen their Internet application worldview, by explaining how back-end technologies--specifically HTML forms, databases, SQL, and Active Server Pages--work together to create interactive applications.
Nick and Nancy Flor are the authors of Small Web Businesses--a business and technical guide to creating profitable personal Web businesses.

To design interactive, database-driven Web pages, you need to know how to create HTML forms, design databases/SQL queries, and develop Active Server Pages scripts. Before you learn the details of these technologies, you need to understand how they work together to create an interactive Web application.

After completing this tutorial you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the four components of a database-driven, interactive Web site

  • Explain how these components interact to create a database-driven interactive Web application

Introduction

Welcome to this new series, Visual Jumpstart Tutorials for Web Designers. We're assuming in this series that you already know how to create static Web pages using HTML and want to take the next step of learning the technologies needed to build interactive, database-driven business and entertainment Web sites.

Before you get too excited, we should point out that we're going to spend very little time on browser or front-end technologies such as Macromedia Flash, Adobe Live Motion, JavaScript, or Dynamic HTML. True, you can use these technologies to make a site interactive, but the most powerful interactive Web sites and Web applications are based on server-side or back-end technologies, specifically databases, SQL, and server-side scripts. These technologies are all fairly complex, and entire books have been written on each of these topics. The primary goal of our tutorials is not to provide all the intricate details of these various technologies, but rather to provide just the key information you need to know to start building basic database-driven, interactive Web applications as quickly as possible. We want to provide a solid foundation in the basics, which you can then build on through practice and experimentation. After completing our tutorials, you should have a much easier time understanding and incorporating the material from those more specialized technologies.

In our experience, the main concepts you need to understand about databases, SQL, and server-side scripts are not difficult to grasp. What is difficult for most beginners is knowing how these technologies work together to create an interactive, database-driven Web site. Thus, in this first tutorial we focus on showing you how all these different back-end technologies fit together. There are many kinds of databases and server-side scripting languages. Due to their popularity, we'll focus on Microsoft Access databases and Active Server Pages for the server-side scripts, which assumes that you're running a Web server that supports these technologies.

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