Changing the HTML on 5,000 personal web pages to delete the old code and insert new code for the new drug database system was NOT FUN
... I can imagine! BUT - presumably the difficulty arose because these pages were not in a standardised format. The advantage of a DB is that you have a clear way to impose the discipline of having standard elements in the page (by putting each element in DB column). Obviously you can't impose that discipline if you're going to let everyone hand-edit their pages. But if you have a dedicated interface they use to edit their pages, you can use THAT to impose the discipline, whether the data's stored in DB or in static pages. With generous uses of HTML commenting, the bits that change can be easily pulled out and operated on.
One other thought, probably one you've already had, but the answer to the question "what rules?" is quite certainly, IMHO, "CSS". This opens up the possibility of total customisation of the appearance of individual sites, but keeping to a highly standardised template for each page. (It also opens up the possibility of shaving your head, climbing a tower with a high velocity rifle, and shooting anyone who uses NS4 - but you can just have a browser-sniffer and a standard alternative format for the unwashed.)
§ George Sherston