Generation of one-page, domain-oriented sites using PHP

Generation of one-page, domain-oriented sites using PHP


A web site is a set of pages on a specific subject. It normally has sub-pages, and normally valuable information about the topic it covers. What if a web site is dedicated to a property? Could you create a web site focused on a specific property, and also named after the property? (something like 22birtonsthamiltonhill.com)? How would you create such a think based on free software? (At the end of this article, you should be able to create a complete template system and a site containing the full list of sites, for property sites.

First of all, is it ethically correct creating such a site? This is an interesting question, especially because there are many discussions going on about coming up in Google searches, and whether mini-sites should even be allowed.

My take is that a single property web site is a completely valid site since:

  • The topic is the property the site covers, with a domain name that makes sense
  • It has real, unique information about something specific
  • It's doesn't have spam

Apache's configuration

First of all, you will need to make sure that you put the configuration file in Apache as the "default" domain name and as the first virtual domain; this way, Apache will use that configuration for any host that is not listed as a ServerName now ServerAlias:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot /home/www/minisites/htdocs
    CustomLog logs/minisites.log combined
    ErrorLog logs/minisites.err.log
</Virtualhost>

Again, make sure that this is the very first entry in your httpd.conf

Making the CSS dynamic

For this exercise, you will need to make the CSS dynamic. You can easily do that by adding this to the code above:

    # Make CSS files interpreted
    AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .css
    <filesMatch "\.css$">
      FileETag None
      Header set Content-type "text/css"
    </filesMatch>

Note that the headers are important here.

The site

There will obviously only be one htdocs directory for the whole thing. This is what index.php will be like:

<?php 

  global $info;

  // Includes Markdown, which is always useful
  include('markdown.php');

  check_server_name();

  // Load the $info variable
  read_site_data();

  // Apply theme-wide changes
  include("theme/".$info->theme."/change_info.php");

  // Include the page
  include("theme/".$info->theme."/page.php");
  exit();

  function check_server_name(){
    $server_name = $_SERVER{'SERVER_NAME'};

    if(! preg_match('/^www\./',$server_name) && is_dir("../data/www.$server_name")){
      header( "Location: http://www.$server_name" );
      exit(1);
    }
  }

  function read_site_data(){
    global $info;

    $server_name = $_SERVER{'SERVER_NAME'};
    $info = new stdClass();
    $data_path = "../data/$server_name";

    // Check that the domain is actually managed
    if(!is_dir($data_path)){
      print "File not found";
      header("HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found");
      exit(1);
    }

    // Load each .txt file in the info directory in the respective variable
    //
    $files = glob("$data_path/*.txt");
    foreach($files as $file){
      $attribute = basename($file,'.txt');
      $info->$attribute = trim(file_get_contents($file));
    }

    // Default ones. These will be available in the template
    $info->url = "http://$server_name/";
  }

?>

This could also called "A poor man's templating system". It's based on the fact that there is a directory called data which then contains the data for that particular mini-site. In that directory, there will be several .txt files. For each file, the script will create a variable (or, actually, an attribute of the $info variable). Note that it will also issue a 404 File not found error if the mini-site is not there.

Also, in this poorman's templating system, there will need to be a theme.txt file which will contain the name of the theme used. Then, with the command include("theme/".$info->theme."/page.php"), the theme is then loaded.

The page.php site in the theme would have something like this:

 <head>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
    <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="theme/green/style.css" />
    <title><?php print $info->name ?></title>

Where $info->name would obviously be translated into the contents of the file name.txt.

A listing site

Having all of the info in separate .txt files might seem strange. However, it does have some advantages: for example, you can easily have a script that reads all of the property's sites and creates a "summary" mini-site which lists them all.

The site shown here, with property sites, was created with a simple PHP script in the Downloads section of this article. It's very basic, but it will definitely do the job!

Conclusion

You might have single-page template-based sites for different reasons. The most important thing is to remember that the sites need to be "real", have unique contents and improve the world in general.

Happy hacking!

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David Jonathan's picture