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Dynamic web page


A dynamic web page assembles the content as the visitor requests it, typically to integrate content or data that is specific to the visitor.


Dynamic websites are increasingly necessary to deliver on the expectation of customers that web experiences behave as promptly and interact as richly than native mobile apps do.

The main challenge for organisations is to scale their content management to the needs of dynamic experiences while keeping control over how this content will display in different contexts

Gabriel Walt is a product manager at Adobe for Web Experience Management. He owns the developer topics of Experience Manager Sites and focuses on the simplicity and modernisation of the website creation process.

Q: How do dynamic web pages work?

A: The dynamic rendering of the web page content historically used to be done by the server. However, given the advanced capabilities of modern web browsers, offloading the assembly to the visitor's browser provides significant benefits: it reduces the load on the server and allows quicker user interactions.

Dynamic web pages offer a whole range of possibilities: from just personalising a welcome message or targeting a hero banner to your visitor's demography, up to having your entire experience being highly interactive. The highly interactive forms of dynamic web pages are often called a web application or a single page application.

In recent years, many JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular or Vue have emerged to ease the task of building web apps. In many cases, the application then only consumes raw content in JSON format and the framework assembles all the HTML in the browser to display it to the visitor.

The wide range of different kinds of dynamic web pages makes it essential to choose a backend solution that can support all of them so that it's always possible to select the most appropriate architecture for the given situation.

Q: What is the value of dynamic web pages?

A: From an experience management perspective, dynamic web pages are interesting as they allow to adjust the experience to each visitor, as opposed to a static web page, where all visitors get served the same content.

As native mobile apps are ubiquitous and set the level of expectations of your customers, they expect your web experiences to match that same level of personalisation and rich interactivity.

With dynamic web pages, your visitors and customers can benefit from better targeted messaging and smoother and faster interactions, which will, in return, increase conversion as they feel engaged and invited to interact. And as your customers get increasingly involved, you will also learn more about them, which will again allow you to craft even more relevant experiences, creating a virtuous cycle.

Q: Why would a company not want to have dynamic web pages?

A: The spread of dynamic web pages causes a paradigm shift for organisations at multiple levels.

First, the development of dynamic web pages is a complex process that requires very different skills: you'll need development teams with excellent frontend expertise, meaning that they must have experience with JavaScript frameworks. The backend expertise is still required, but not necessarily at the same level and the task of these developers will be more about providing the right JSON content services to the frontend.

Second, the more personalised and dynamic your site is, the more content you need to create and the more challenging it can get to keep the overview of the context in which your content will be displayed. If you're not set up as an organisation to create that amount of content and to manage it at scale, the whole effort can be pointless. You need to set up a content marketing strategy first.

Finally, you'll need the right solution that supports you in this endeavour, to allow your development teams to implement the best possible experience while enabling your authors to manage it at scale and with flexibility.

But all of these are necessary changes if you want your company to stay ahead and competitive. Think that there's no good reason why your web site should not be as interactive and personalised as a mobile app can be, therefore becoming a fully-fledged web app.

Q: What mistakes do companies make with dynamic web pages?

A: Many projects only master the implementation of modern web apps at the expense of authoring capabilities. Authors are then left with a headless content management system (Headless CMS) where they have lost control over how their content is displayed in the different contexts if they even know at all where their content will be displayed. Ironically, authors are then back to form-based content management interfaces with no control over the overall customer experience, despite the web app's intent being to serve a better customer experience.

Often, this issue is played down and even presented as a benefit: authors are more efficient in a distraction-free interface that focuses only on the content and not on its presentation and context. While it is true that this allows authors to better deliver on the increased content needs for personalisation, it doesn't show the whole picture. If authors cannot also control how their content gets assembled and where it gets used, then this creates a dependency on the development team for any changes that go beyond pure content management. As soon as changes to how the content gets assembled are due, the development team then becomes the bottleneck, making it challenging to deliver promptly. Frequently, this only becomes a noticeable problem after the content has scaled to multiple languages and markets and the development team has moved on to other projects and priorities.

To prevent this issue, organisations need to put in a mandate to the developers implementing the site that authors must be able to adjust the content assembly in the context of the visitor's experience without help from a developer.

Q: How have dynamic web pages evolved?

A: We've seen pages become more and more dynamic: we started with static web pages and are now at the age of web apps. In this process, we've seen the authors increasingly struggle to manage the content for these dynamic contexts and lose control over how that content is displayed. The next evolution brings to marketers the best of both worlds: power tools for creating and managing massive amounts of content, as well as the same in-context editing capabilities that existed for static web pages. We won't need to make a choice any more between having a dynamic webpage with your authors in a headless black box or having a static webpage where your authors can control the visuals and preview the content.