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Using Server Side Includes to Simplify Your Web Design

An "include" file is a piece of code that can be put into a seperate file -- for example -- your navigation bar -- and then "included" in a number of other pages. This has the very useful advantage of allowing you to retain consistency over a very large number of pages, and then make changes to all of those pages by just changing the include file.

For instance, say you want each page in your site to include a short paragraph that uniquely identifies your site. I normally call this a "site-id". It would read something like this:

ForSaleTours.com - provides information and sources for virtual tours for the real estate industry. We explain different methods of combining video and audio to produce virtual representations of your home to enhance its value and to make the purchasing experience of potential buyers better than it otherwise might be.

To set this up so it appears in a host file as an "include", you normally have to do three things:

1. Make sure your server allows SSI (server side includes). If you have access to your web site control panel you should be able to figure this out. Or if not, ask your web host technical support people.

2. Create a "host" file and give it a file extension so your server recognizes it contains include files. A common extension is .shtml

3. Create your include file. It can usually have any of a number of different extensions: .html, .htm, .php, even .txt. This is the file that will be included within other files.

4. Embed the correct code within your .shtml file to point to the include file. If the include file and host file are in the same folder on the server, it will look like this:

<!--#include file="file_name.html"-->

If the include file is located in a different folder (on the same server), the code will look like this:

<!--#include virtual="folder_name/file_name.html"-->

In the above example you have to make sure the relative path to the include file is set correctly.

Now when you want to make a global change to, for instance, your "site-id", you just have to change the include file (once), and this change will be populated through all the pages that include that file.

Include files can be put to many creative uses that allow you to do things that are otherwise very impractical. And if you have a website with a large number of pages, this technique can save you a great deal of time.

For more web design and online marketing tips see the Linknet Marketing Resource Library

Rick Hendershot is a marketing consultant, writer, and internet publisher who lives in Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He publishes several websites and blogs, including The Linknet Network of Websites. This network provides an inexpensive way to advertise your website, and get as many as 100 low cost links.

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