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I've heard of "content management systems" but I'm not entirely sure how these work; is it like a php message board might work? If I need one, how do I get one, pick a good one, and how much does it cost...?
I'm really interested in what a webmaster does to take the "next step" forward, after you've created a basic site, have a few hundred pages, and have several thousand visits a day... what next? Can I go on using Dreamweaver templates forever, or will I need to upgrade to a better system?
Right now I really like the Dreamweaver features, however, and would love to keep static HTML pages if that's possible. I don't want all my URLs changing.
If the only requirement in management of static pages, then I would not suggest using a large CMS.
Instead use a small script which allows editing of static HTML pages from the browser. You can also have access control with such a solution.
check out something called microCMS... i dont remember the url... just google it
Cms is good if you want to create bigger site or you want to update it frequently. CMS has possibility to install additional modules, so you can save a lot of time in this way.
You can download ready templates for cms as well (they are open source).
Dreamweaver is good for sites, but it is expensive. If you are going to create no too many site I would recommend you using NVU (it is open source application but find it in google, I do not want to give you address, I do not want to be blamed for promoting it). For sites created in Dreamweaver or NVU you can find open source templates as well.
If you are planning on enabling visitors to edit and create content then I think getting a CMS is a comfortable way to do it, but unless you know PHP as well as you do HTML it will take a while for you to get same control over how the site looks and works. Untill then you rely on templates made by others.
In Drupal the urls can be made the same by messing around with the Apache server.