Member Rara Avis
What you are describing, Chris, is called a Content Management System, and you can see examples of what they do at CNet or any similar sites of that breadth and ilk. Essentially, someone among a whole lot of someones enters content into a database and the web site is automatically extended to include it. Coincidentally, there was a discussion on this at the private Moderator forum over at VP and several of the people had experience with CM systems, usually in terms of investigating it for larger clients. The consensus seemed to be they are very complex (equating to difficult to use) and very expensive. If you have an extra hundred grand laying around, I can get you some company names.
Updates at the main site rely on two tools, one of which won't work for you and one of which might.
The first tool is a custom Access database, originally built over two years ago. The concept was simple enough. Enter the author info and the poems, provide some templates, and let the software write all the HTML pages while it also manages all the links. In the two years since then, we've added 26 categories, voting results, multi-page menus, author's pages, greeting cards, and tons of other such stuff. My database now has Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids. Even the smallest change in design at the main site requires several hours of hard-coding in the database to make it work. It needs to be completely scrapped and a new one written from scratch - as soon as I find time.
The second tool, however, is much simpler. After the Access database writes several thousand HTML pages, they are all imported into FrontPage 98. I'm in the process of converting to FP 2000, which has produces cleaner code, and I have ordered a copy of Dreamweaver, having heard it will also do what I want. The reason I'm looking for alternatives is not because FP98 doesn't do everything I need, but rather because it now takes several hours to do it.
FrontPage is at best a so-so HTML editor. However, it is a dynamite web manager, greatly facilitating management of filenames and directory structure. Here's just one example.
Way back when, the main site used a graphic called blank.gif to exactly control column widths. In fact, my design uses that same file a LOT, often as many as twenty or forty times on a single page. Now, multiply that by six million page views a month. The gif is only about 42 bytes and usually only needs to be sent just once, to lodge it in the client's cache. But the name of the file gets sent millions and millions of time each month. Three or four months ago, it occurred to me I save a ton of bandwidth by just renaming the file to bk.gif. So I did - and FrontPage took several hours, going through 12,000 HTML pages and renaming every instance of it. Without that capability, my only recourse would have been to go through each page myself and do a search and replace. Whether you rename/relocate an image, a page, or a whole directory, FrontPage handles all the grunt work.
Here's the feature, however, that might save you some time and sweat. FP also allows you to "include" one template HTML page into another page. For example, all the menus at the main site reside in just one FP file. All the other pages just have an "include" pointing to that page. The advantage is simple. If I change the menu in that single file, it cascades throughout the entire web site, changing on every page. The same is true of headers, footers, newsletter forms - just about anything you see at the main site that is repetitive actually exists in only a single file. I know you're familiar with the concept, because it works almost exactly the same way you're currently implementing css. Except it's done on your local machine instead of on the server.
The growth of the main site would not have been possible without CM tools, and you're right to start looking now. Sadly, my tools have are in bad need of repair and replacement, so we're pretty much in the same boat together.