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web help - getting started

P: n/a
Jim
I need some help getting started with a .NET web project for a
commercial site. I am new to .NET and my understanding of some (but
not all) of its concepts is a little sparse. I apologize for the
length of this message, but hopefully it will help someone here give
me the most concise and useful information, and perhaps help others
out as well. :)

It's been a while since I've had to design anything "real" for the
web. I think the last time was just before the HTML 4.0 standard came
out. I am a professional C++ developer, and I am now taking on some
web work, and kind of need to hit the ground running with .NET. I
have some general site / application design questions that I'm hoping
someone might be able to answer to help me to that end. :)

I want to emphasize that this is a "real world" application I'm
developing, and as such sometimes some of the more academic constructs
used in the text books give way to better and cleaner-looking
solutions (for example, nobody "really" uses the familiar MS
access-style data grids in their commercial productions.) Overall,
the site I am working on is pretty straightforward, and my only real
motivation for using .NET here is that I want to become more
proficient with it, and migrate to it as a means of development... all
of that said...

My website will provide information and interat with the user in the
mortgage business. So, it wil do things like quote current interest
rates, as well as calculate payments and employ a few other business
rules objects that I feel .NET will be well suited for. What I am
having trouble learning is where the "marriage" comes in between the
server-side stuff that .NET does, particularly with web forms, and the
HTML structure and formatting stuff that makes the page look nice. As
much as I detested the design-time controls in VS6, they, and the site
templates at least took care of some of this for you, even if the
designs did look kind of chesey right out of the box, and a pain in
the butt to modify or author your own.

Consider this: Physically, all (or at least most) of the pages on my
site will be laid out with a coloured bar down the left side of the
page, which contains button images I've done up in PhotoShop. The
remainder of the page is the "body" area, where my non-scrolling
background will go, over which I will place the content for the page.
As the user navigates the site, the buttons on the left will change to
reflect the options available at that point on the web, and of course
the content in the main page area will change as they navigate as
well. When users first enter the site, they will be asked to provide
logon information that will be used throughout the sesion to provide
customized content (ie information relavent to their customer profile,
pending loan application, etc.)

In the good ol' days of HTML, we'd accomplish this most likely with
frames, and using an HTML FORM to post the logon data back to some
script on the server (ewe... CGI... Yuck).

With .NET, we seem to have these things called webforms (aspx files),
and it seems pretty straightforward to design one. I had no trouble
making a nice cheesy login screen and pulling up the info out of the
database for the customer... the concepts of the data connections,
datasets (I think we used to call them "recordsets")... all that is
pretty simple.

But what about the visual aspect of this? Should I use a FRAMESET on
my site, putting the .aspx pages in the appropriate frames at the
appropriate time? Or, Should I visually build the TABLE structure on
the default.aspx page and then write code behind it to put the right
things in the right parts of the table at the right times? (ie the
proper buttons in the left table section, and the proper content /
form controls in the right-hand section) - This concept is employing a
full-screen table to break up the browser window into the logical
components I want. I don't know if this methodology is outdated,
which is why I'm asking all of this. ("once HTML, always HTML" LOL)

On one hand, the latter seems to be in the spirit of .NET - One page,
from the user's perspective, that dynamically serves up all the
content for the entire session... Or should I be attacking this in a
different way? How, for example would I include a web form inside of
a static HTML element, like the TABLE, to yield the nicely formatted
results I'm looking for, or what .NET approach should I be using
instead?

I know that the old .asp approach to things was to have the global.asa
file contain the data objects (like the session information) for the
site, and then .asp files within the site could refer to that global
information to pass data such as your logon / account information from
one page to another as you traverse the site. I don't really know
what mechanisms should be used for doing this in .NET and, what makes
it worse is that I'm under a real time crunch on this particular
project. Thank God I'm a quick study. :) .NET does not seem to
employ traditional .asp pages. I mean, while it seems to parse them
fine, there is no template for creating a new .asp page, only a
webform (aspx), unless that is the approach to be used for presenting
all content? Hmm... These are the things I really need answered. :)
I could probably get myself through this, hard and hand coding around
the files to force it to do what I want, but I'd rather do this the
"right" way from the get-go, so that growing and maintaining the site
will not be come and ever-increasing chore.

I want to thank anyone who's had the patience to read through all of
this for your time. An example of a project would be a GREAT
resource, but if you can at least give me concise enough information
to get me pointed in the right direction, I can figure out the rest I
am sure. Thank you VERY much! :)

JIM
Jul 21 '05 #1
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