Dynamic Master Pages

An important thing to remember about master pages is that you can have more than one in any given web application. For example, if some pages in your web application will be two columns, and some will be three, you might build two master files. Then, when you create the web forms, you select which master file to use.

A powerful use for multiple master pages in an application is to dynamically assign them when the page loads. Here is an example of code to do dynamic master pages. The example on this page is giving a different master page if the client is using a browser on Windows CE. The thing to remember about dynamically assigning master pages, is that it needs to be done very early in the page life cycle, in the PreInit method.

Imagine a situation where you want to host a web application for many different entities, for example, I recently watched a demonstration of a hosted 4-H enrollment application. Every state wants to have their own look to the application. An easy way to do this is by using dynamic master pages, and assigning them based on the username of the person that is logged in.

A place where we are using dynamic web pages extensively is in our Content Management Server (CMS). We have one set of templates that are used for 18 different sites. Each of these sites have their own branding and navigation, although many of them are similar. When we set up the sites in CMS, we set a custom property that tells it what master file to load. This allow us to provide a huge amount of customization by only modifying the two files that make up the master page. Our Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute site, and our Bioeconomy site are using this CMS application, and have quite different looks.

We are currently working on a project for community foundations, that will have a number of sites for individual community foundations. These sites will use the same CMS application as the ISU extension sites referenced above. However, they will have a completely different look and feel. This project was possible because we are dynamically assigning the master pages as the page loads.

wine2.png bioeconomy2.png hardin2.png

Here are thumbnails of the three web sites referenced above that are using this single CMS application. The different looks is a result of the dynamic master pages mentioned above.


3 comments so far

  1. […] Brian Webster – Blog Web Development and Other Ramblings « Dynamic Master Pages […]

  2. Floyd Davenport on


    Interesting… I’m learning (a little). Wonder if this could also be used for personalization?

  3. Ben Crinion on

    The link to your example code is dead.

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