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Maintaining Site Differences

With the decision to visually identify the web server and operating system for each site, the sites are no longer identical. Some means is needed to minimize the changes between sites to reduce the amount of manual work in having similar but not identical sites. Since at some point, I plan to write a script that will manage the standardization and change on the sites, this could be tailored to each site. Unless it cannot be avoided, this is a poor solution as at least three parallel but different scripts would need to be maintained.

There is what seems to be a fairly simple solution for at least the current problem of different graphics. The graphics files could be named the same on each system but actually have different content. The problem here is accidentally replacing the graphics when updating other graphics that have been changed or added and are the same across the sites. My solution was to create a /local directory under the root directory of each site. In this case I also created a subdirectory named graphics. The intention is to keep all site specific elements in local or one of its subdirectories. This should pretty much eliminate, accidentally replacing site specific contents.

The individual file names were also changed to generic names so openbsd-pb.gif simply became os.gif. Web.gif was used for the web server graphics. This makes getting the right files displayed quite easy but still leaves a problem. It's my intention to have these graphics on every page of each site. I'm also planing to use "alt" tags on all graphics but if you look at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines you'll see that just saying "operating system graphic" or "web server graphic" doesn't suffice. The guidelines call for "text equivalents" so that the alt tag conveys the same information that the graphic provides. In this case the alt tags would need to be something like "Powered by Apache" or "Run on Internet Information Server".

This gets us back to site specific content on every page that needs to be managed. The entire site could become dynamic via PHP or Zope. ASP and ColdFusion won't do because they are not available on all the platforms I'm using. The full version of ColdFusion is also expensive. This is much more than I wish to do as I still plan to have a predominately static site. At this point I'm anticipating placing a configuration file in the local directory that the standardization script will read to get all site specific information. This does mean that every time any pages are loaded to a site the script will need to be run on them.

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