What’s Dynamic About It?

In my post on Webslices, I mentioned that the home page of my Flash site uses server-side includes instead of a static HTML file. But it doesn’t really update that often: maybe 3 or 4 times a month. Is it really worth building that file dynamically? Should I switch from SSI to something more powerful, like PHP, that will let me add headers so that repeat visitors won’t have to re-download the whole page except when it’s actually different? Or should I switch to a static file, with the same benefits but simpler? What am I actually building, anyway?

Looking through the code, I find:

Browser upgrade banners. People using old versions of Firefox (currently 1.5 or older) or Internet Explorer (currently 5.5 or older) get an “Upgrade to Firefox 2” banner instead of the thumbnail of the current issue of the comic. This is just as easily done with JavaScript—and is done with JS elsewhere on the site. (I used to make some minor adjustments for other versions of IE, but I converted them all to conditional comments a while back.)

Last-modified date in the footer, pulled from the actual file. I’ve already got a script to update this in the static files, so it’s just a matter of adding it to my general update script. A two-minute, one-time change and I’ll never notice the difference.

Latest posts from this blog. Probably better done with an iframe, or maybe using AJAX. Drawback: either method would mean an extra request from the client. On the plus side, repeat visitors would be able to re-use the rest of the page, and only download the 5-item list.

Unique-per-day spamtrap addresses, hidden where harvesters might pick them up. But only a few of them still accept mail and feed it to filters. Mostly, they just waste spammers’ resources. I could easily either get rid of them or change the script to generate a new address with each update instead of each day.

So really, there isn’t much stopping me from using a static file for the most-viewed page on the site, with all the attendant savings in system resources, bandwidth, etc.

On the other hand, I keep contemplating switching to a database-driven system for the whole thing, which would make any changes now meaningless. But since I’ve been thinking about that since around 2000 or so, and haven’t changed it yet, that’s not exactly a blocker!

Update (March 30): I’ve made the conversion to a static file. The blog posts and browser upgrade banners are now done client-side (and run after the rest of the page is loaded), the last-modified date is part of the pre-processing script, and I just removed the daily spamtrap addresses. Now to see whether it actually improves performance.

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