So you have opened up your most recent SiteImprove report and are wondering just how your website grew by 53 pages over night! You log in to OUCampus and start counting the number of pages thinking that SiteImprove has gone off the rails because the number of pages it reports is far bigger than what is IN your website! How can this be?
This is the result of dynamically created pages.
Recently our team implemented a new dynamic OUCampus template for staff directories and the associated profile pages. This new template replaced the prior version which was comprised of two individual OUCampus pages that were also dynamic. One of the major goals of this new template was to great improve the ability for search engines, and other link crawlers, to get to the content in order to create indexes of those pages. This worked beautifully as you can see by the jump in pages.
So how do dynamic pages work?
There are a few components. First we must have a place where the information comes from that makes its way to your web page. In this example, directory and profile information are coming from campuswebdata.uark.edu. This is the website where we manage all of our directory information that is not stored in BASIS or UAConnect. This website has an “Application Protocol Interface” or API for short. The job of an API is to listen for a request, and if that request is valid, to deliver out the response, which is your content. Wait… What?
Breaking it down.
If we look at this URL: http://advancement.uark.edu/directory/index/uid/cnixon/name/Chris-Nixon/, you can see that ‘uid/cnixon’ is in there. Uid is a parameter that needs a value, which in this case is cnixon. With that value it can then ask the campuswebdata API for any information it has for the uid cnixon. The API finds that information and then sends it back to the web page to present that information to the web browser. You could modify the URL above with anyone’s uid and see their information instantly pulled through (give it a try!)
It is very important to note that http://advancement.uark.edu/directory/index/uid/cnixon/name/Chris-Nixon/ is not REALLY a page in the website. The page that is there is http://advancement.uark.edu/directory/index.php. This page, by using the API, can then be a million virtual pages. The beauty for us is that we only have to manage the one template and not a page per person, huge time savings for large organizations!
Great, but I need to make an update!
Dynamic pages can cause confusion when it comes to making changes to content because you have to figure out WHERE that content really lives. This may require someone technical with web technologies to figure out if you don’t know, and even then it maybe a mystery. A few common content types on campus that are managed like this would be the directory, maps, catalog of studies, news, events and more.
This is just one example of many on our campus. Look around and see if you can find others. If you need any help better understanding your environment or how you might want to take advantage of this time saving technique please let us know at email@example.com.