How the database approach changes wasteful web development patterns
The typical web development pattern most companies follow is to design and build a static website, maintain that site for 18 - 36 months, and then replace it altogether. Maintaining the site usually means adding and removing press releases and product information, or making minor adjustments to the homepage content. Over this period companies often discover many new possibilities for using their sites, but do not implement them. The reason these new ideas don't get implemented is that making them work would require too many adjustments to the overall navigation or layout of the site. For example, a company might decide that their site would benefit by adding a "customer service" button the their navigation bar that leads to an area with FAQs and comment forms related to customer service issues. This may in fact be a great idea for the site and could dramatically improve its effectiveness, however, to make the change to the navigation system would require that every single page on the site be manually altered. The cost of doing this can be prohibitive even though it would be a great feature. Instead of adding the new feature, it ends up on a wish list, along with other ideas and possibilities, for when the company is willing and able to do a full "redesign" of the site.
When it is finally time to do a redesign, the site needs so many changes that usually the first site is scrapped and a completely new (static) site is built with all the new features, design and content. This second development project is usually more costly then the first. Unfortunately, because markets and business plans change so quickly, there are soon more new features and content that should be added to the new site. But now the site is even bigger than the first site and to make changes to the navigation or layout is an even bigger, more prohibitive project, so again these ideas and possibilities get stored up for the next rebuild, which will be even more expensive than the first two.
This pattern wastes money, and creates lost opportunities for a website between rebuilds. The inflexible and inefficient static web development approach usually causes companies to feel frustrated with their websites, when they should be enjoying the many benefits and advantages that websites can offer.
The database driven approach to web development changes this frustrating pattern. Because database driven sites separate content (by storing it in a database) and design (by using templates), changes to a site's structure and content can be made incrementally as needed. In contrast to the previous example, a company could add a customer support area to a database driven site by simply adding the new content and adjusting the site templates. This process is far simpler than making global changes to every static page. Additionally, making changes to a database-driven site remains just as easy if the site were to double or triple in size. By contrast, a static site would require two or three times as much effort and expense.
This represents a huge shift in a company's ability to utilize the web effectively. While this basic shift is perhaps the most important difference and advantage in the database approach there are other overlooked advantages as well.