Include pages” are simple yet incredibly powerful design elements in more modern websites powered with content management systems. By using an “include page” for header or footer information, for example, it is possible to update a SINGLE file with a new copyright statement and make that text visible / available on ALL the webpages on your website. This time of year in the early 2000s, when I was the webmaster of the College of Education at Texas Tech University, was filled with headaches before I learned the power of “include files.” Initially I used page and site templates in Dreamweaver to do things like update copyright statements at the bottom of our organizational webpages, but when the college and university moved to a CMS it became possible to do this with “include pages” instead. Without “include pages” or the use of design templates like those provided by programs like Dreamweaver, a webpage author had to manually go out and edit/change repeated references (like copyright statements) one at a time, on every page on a website. Ugh! What a pain. There are lots better ways to spend your time than manually updating copyright statements on hundreds of webpages if you are an organizational webmaster. Fortunately better / more efficient ways to keep content up to date have been devised by folks far geekier than me.

This evening I created a 4 minute, 40 second screencast with Screenr explaining the steps for including content from another wiki page on PBworks on multiple pages in your site. These can be used as repeated header or footer content, as I’ve shown in this example. While it’s necessary to insert this custom code on EACH webpage once, after that is accomplished EVERY webpage will display updated content from the included page, since it is “pulling” (including) that information dynamically each time it is viewed by visitors.

If you’d like to see this in action, check out the handouts page I’ve used on PBworks from 2006 through 2009: teachdigital.pbworks.com. This is also accessible as handouts.wesfryer.com. I’ve decided to “clean up” my digital footprint of presentation/workshop links (I have over 140 separate pages now on my PBworks site) with a “clean start” on my Google Site linked from wiki.wesfryer.com. Kevin Honeycutt makes the analogy that losing data on your hard drive can be like a cleansing “prairie fire” to invite new idea growth and creativity.

prairie fire

I don’t want or plan to lose any data, but I need a similar “virtual prairie fire” as part of a personal online digital makeover I’m working to implement in early 2010. It’s a pain to update these 100+ pages on PBworks with this “include” code, but at least in the future I’ll be able to readily update this header content on all those pages as required with only a few clicks.

H/T to the authors of the PBWorks tutorial page on “Adding a Footer” for sharing this technique of including content from another PBworks page in several pages on a PBworks site.

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