You don’t just need FrontPage or Dreamweaver to create webpages: many people don’t realise that you can use Access to get creative. In fact, webpages are often database driven rather than static these days and it pays to know how to create more dynamic content.
You may have already heard of.ASP pages (Active Server Pages), which are server-side elements of a page that work alongside the standard HTML constructed parts of the site. ASP is the most flexible and the most common way of using databases that work alongside servers (hence the name server-side) and is probably the best way forward if you want to start integrating your Access database knowledge into web page design.
Access users who are familiar with its uses alongside SQL scripts and databases will know what a data access page is and how it can be used on the web. While it all sounds a bit technical, most websites that have any kind of interactive element (even just entering a user name and password), are processed by database-driven scripts (where all the user names and password algorithms are stored). Data access pages that you can create in Access can seamlessly and quickly become part of your website, if you save them as HTA (HTML Application) files. However, bear in mind that HTA files cannot be secured in the same way as regular HTML files, so may make your site appear less trustworthy to overly security-conscious folk.
Another consideration on the web that applies solely to Access users is that you can make your Data Access Pages available to other users for them to manipulate (and hopefully improve upon!). In a client/server setup, allowing other people to access your data runs a lot smoother than you might think. Naturally, users can access your SQL database too (if you want them to!!). This kind of practise would work well for an internal intranet or somewhere where the security can be monitored.
Access also has a “design view”, meaning you can look at how your data access pages will appear to others or if opened via a browser, (Internet Explorer works better for this, perhaps because it’s a Microsoft product and is therefore fully supported). The tables and forms that you create in Access can also be used to create dynamic web pages (or DHTML), which are becoming increasingly common. Another security pointer when opening your pages to the public is that your database files should really only be read-only, unless you want them to be manipulated by other users, (bear in mind not all of them will be friendly and hackers are au fait with gaining access to databases, too).
The presence of databases are here to stay on the web – as sites get more complex, they get more interactive, and this will only increase with the average connection speed of broadband. However, if you’re new to web design – learning HTML first and foremost is the way to go, before you move on to the more complex design features of server-side functionality and database-driven sites. Knowledge, as they say, is power and best harnessed with a bit of training and a lot of enthusiasm!
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