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Web Design Technology

The following is a brief introduction to the web technologies we use. We try to speak in plain language at all times but occasionally the odd slippage happens.

Web application

A Web thing or gadget. Its anything that does something.


HTML Hyper Text Markup Language

The basic foundation language for web pages. Its simple tags around sections telling it to be blue, sit here and be this size. It is a language to display data.

CSS Cascading style sheets

These are officially brilliant. They make control of the sites style, layout and colour easy. In the old days if we built a site for a client entirely in red and black and just before launch needed it to be blue and white, we would mutter something under our breath and then not have a weekend. Now we just flip a few lines of code in the 'Style sheet' page and all the pages are updated at the same time.


DHTML Dynamic Hyper Text Markup Language

The magic that makes web pages dynamic. Its actually a combination of HTML, JavaScript and CSS. It came about when programmers could make HTML pages do things not seen before and the Web industry need a term to describe this. It spawned pop-up windows that shook and changed colour. Pretty useful for positioning pop-up windows and layering menus and content on a page.


XHTML EXtensible Hyper Text Markup Language

Yep its just getting silly now. XHTML is a stricter version of HTML, which it replaces. it is almost the same as the last version of HTML 4.01 Its a web standard and one we currently code in. We wont go in to the details but it tightens up bad and inefficient web coding. It makes our web site more streamlined and finely tuned.


XML EXtensible Markup Language

A difficult concept to pick up but XML holds and transports (and structures) data between applications. Its a language much like HTML but HTML displays data. Its self descriptive so it strangely defines its own language tags rather than HTML's fixed descriptive tags. It doesn't actually do anything on its own, it has to be used by another programmed piece of software.

We use it here a lot to hold/ transfer data from a database into a Web page and then in to a Flash application in one smooth movement.



Flash is software package that builds interactive and animated elements or videos for Web sites. It plays the compiled finished application thorough a flash player which is installed on your browser.

Because Flash compresses files very, very well, it is specifically designed for use over the web, where fast downloading is important. However it can also be used to create screen savers, CD Roms, Games and e-books if used in conjunction with other applications.

Its an amazing piece of software that caters for all levels of user. non-programmers to excellent gaming programmers. We love it!



ActionScript was specifically developed for use in programming Flash. It is similar to JavaScript. That won't mean much if you don't know JavaScript!



Not to be confused with Java, a completely different programming language. It is a lightweight scripting language designed for the web, to add gadgets, interactivity and general fanciness to sites that HTML/XHTML can't do. We add it within HTML or XHTML coded pages - all browsers display it doesn't require a separate embedded 'player' like Flash. Its also good for checking form submission and manipulating dynamic elements, such as button click events or those annoying clocks that follow your mouse.


ASP Active Server Pages

ASP pages (developed by Microsoft) can contain HTML, XHTML, Flash, ActionScript. While HTML, JavaScript, Flash, CSS are executed on the users Web browser, ASP is executed on the Hosting Server. The server takes the code and effectively brings all the variable elements together as required and displays it as any other HTML page.

Its one of the simpler technologies to tailor dynamic content. And its usually faster.

It needs Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services), which is run on the hosting server to run. Because it builds the page as HTML, Web users don't need any specific technology on their machines. Yay!

ChilliASP runs ASP on non-Micosoft servers - we don't like them. We only use Microsoft Servers to host our web sites.

ASP also provides security. No one can steal or view your original code. We do like that.



Loosely based on Visual Basic as a simple browser based script for manipulating variable/dynamic data on a page.


An element of ASP that handles web based email sending. Such as confirmation emails for product ordering.


SQL Structured Query Language

This is what we use to talk to and manipulate database content. Adding, editing, deleting and retrieving entries are the core uses.



As it suggests this is a central base for holding data. They should usually be in a secure place on a server.

A database can be as simple as a text document or Microsoft Access or or you may have heard of Oracle. That's a bit more specialised but they all hold the data in the same way.


CMS (Content Management Systems)

Usually a databse that stores the content for your web site. CMS allow you to update your web site content (text and images, uploaded files and links) through an admin panel. Long term they can save you money over constant site updates.

Useful for news and blog applications


Data Management

A broad umbrella term for the design and development of information architectures, corporate data policies and procedures.

Simply the art or science of managing data. Each project will have its own optimal management specifications based on user and corporate requirements.


Information Design

How information should be structured for best use for both the site user and data management. This term is banded about a bit and difficult to measure its effectiveness.

We are aware of banks who have information architects and their systems don't work well. Whether this is information design or something else its difficult to tell. Either way if the site doesn't work its a bit of a waste of time!



The process of coming to a solution. Not just drawing, not initial ideas, not just style, images and colour....



This is used to host your web site. Its just a computer that 'serves' your web site pages to your browser



The software that turns our lovely code in to pretty pictures and working applications. Examples are Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Google also suggests we test our site using the Lynx browser. Good advice if you ask us.

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