Data-driven Webpage (SQL Data)

Data-driven Webpage (SQL Data)

Here are the steps of designing a data-driven website:

  • Choosing an operating system

Choosing a platform is the first step in designing a data-driven website. It is considered the most critical step because it will have long term ramifications on your site. Your choice of an operating system may be determined by budget, hardware or hosting arrangement. There are a plethora of online hosting companies available who offer a database and scripting language for a monthly fee.

  • Deciding on a Scripting language

We have already settled on PHP because it is one of the hottest and new scripting languages. Also, it works best with Apache and excellently supports most databases. However, as a programmer, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to scripting languages. You can also decide to work with Perl, Java Server Pages, Cold Fusion MX, and ASP.

  • Choosing a database

The third consideration is choosing your database back-end. Your choice of a database is often dictated by your scripting language and server operating system. For example, if you are using ASP as your scripting language, you may be limited to choosing databases that run on Microsoft. This is because ASP works best on Microsoft IIS. In this content, we will be using MySQL which is an open-source solution.

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In this article, we are assuming that you are well-versed in  the basics of PHP (a server-side scripting language) and MySQL (a relational database engine). We are going to combine these two areas to help you know how you can create a data-driven website.

Before we dive deep into creating a data-driven webpage, you must know how these two powerful tools (MySQL and PHP) will fit together. The idea of a data-driven webpage is to allow data to reside in the database and for it to be dynamically pulled from the database to be viewed using a web browser. On one side of the system, we have content for the site. This data sits in a MySQL database and can only be retrieved by MySQL queries (commands). At the other end, we have a visitor on our website who uses a web browser to request a page. The PHP scripting language acts as the go-between. It understands both the language of the web browser and the database. PHP processes the page request and uses SQL commands to fetch data from the database. It then displays the data as a formatted HTML page that the browser expects.

In summary and to clear your doubts, here is what happens when you visit a webpage of a data-driven site:

  • Your web browser requests your page of choice using a standard URL.
  • Apache (which is a web-server software) receives that request and recognizes it as a PHP script. It then starts the PHP interpreter to execute the code contained in the file
  • PHP commands then connect to the database and request the content for your webpage
  • The database (MySQL) responds by sending the data to the PHP script.
  • The PHP script uses variables to store the content received. It then outputs the content as part of the web page using echo statements
  • The PHP interpreter creates a copy of HTML and hands it to Apache.
  • Lastly, Apache sends the HTML to the browser as it would send a plain HTML file.

Connecting PHP to MySQL

It is crucial that you know how to establish a connection to MySQL from inside a PHP script. Without this connection, you cannot retrieve data from your database. The PHP interpreter is built into the language in the form of a library of built-in functions. It can connect directly to a running MySQL server using the built-in function mysql_connect

Mysql_connect (hostname, username, password)

From your introduction to PHP class, you probably remember that functions usually return a value when they are called. For example, the mysql_connect function returns a link identifier. The link identifier identifies the connection that has been established

MySQL server is completely different and separate software from the webserver. Sometimes, it may be unavailable or inaccessible due to poor network or a wrong combination of the username and password. The mysql_connect function in  such cases returns FALSE, instead of the connection identifier. This is because no connection has been established.

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