Static vs. Dynamic – Which Website is Best For You
June 06, 2018
Static websites are making a comeback, but dynamic websites still dominate the web. Here’s an overview of each with some pros and cons if your company is considering a new website.
Table of contents
What is a static site
What is a dynamic site
Are Static Sites better than Dynamic Sites?
Dynamic Website Pros and Cons
Static Website Pros and Cons
Should you build a Static or Dynamic Site?
What is a static website?
Static websites serve the same content to every visitor from a fixed file that is coded in HTML. In the early days of the Internet this is how the first web pages were built. For each individual page of a static website, there is a unique HTML file on a web server with all the content and styles etc, for that complete page. When a website visitor types in a URL or visits a static page on a website, the page that loads will be the exact same for all users.
Static websites typically a more straightforward collection of files (or a collection of files and folders in a directory structure) that are managed by a web master or programmer that is familiar with HTML or some code. When updates need to be made or new pages added, it needs to be done manually by someone who is familiar with code and can code in HTML.
For example, a simple static website with a Home Page and a Contact page will contain two HTML files called something like ‘index.html’ and ‘contact.html’ (for almost all web servers the home page file is named index.html by default). These files would display the same information in a web browser to any user that requests them.
Static websites don’t have a database or require much server side thinking or processing before they deliver or generate a page to the user. They are typically more simple and efficient ways to create and server simple web pages. This site had a good click through illustration on dynamic and static websites (although the words run together in later slides)
As loading speed and security have become more important, static pages have started to re-gain some popularity – particularly with smaller sites that don’t change very often.
What is a dynamic site?
Dynamic websites are capable of serving different content to web visitors, even if the web page visitors are requesting the same exact page or viewing the same URL. Most dynamic websites require a database. When visitors request a dynamic web page, code on the web server works to kind of assemble the components of a web page before delivering them to the user. Server side code determines what components or pieces are needed to assemble a complete web page before it is delivered to the user. This can involve a huge variety of variables and logic depending on a websites architecture and purpose.
As an example, web visitors that visit the same URL might see different content in a dynamic site if they are one different devices, different countries, different times of day or even different networks. A web page generated from a dynamic website might have server side code that assembles content from different areas of a database, outside sources, page templates and other elements that are all in different areas of the server. In some dynamic sites, you might even see different elements or contents just by reloading the same web page twice.
Most dynamic sites use a Content Management System (CMS) that allows internal users to make updates or publish changes. Most CMS’s are accessible through a web based login that allows website owners or their staff to manage the site using a more easy to use visual interface. When updates or changes are saved they can be published immediately. Dynamic websites that use a CMS make it much easier to control larger websites.
Are Static sites better than Dynamic Sites?
There’s not a right or wrong answer here and it’s kind of like asking if red crayons are better than green crayons. If you need to color fire, red is better. If you need to color plants, green is probably better. Static sites do seem to be re-gaining popularity lately but the large majority of websites on the Internet are dynamic. At the end of the day it really depends on what the website you are planning to build is for.
Dynamic Website Pros & Cons
- Greater Interactivity with Users
- Increased Functionality (Ecommerce, Login Portals etc.)
- Easier to manage using a CMS, especially large sites
- Less coding skills required
- Less secure and more vulnerable
- More complex to setup depending on functionality
- Slower load time
- Generally more expensive to setup and maintain
Static Website Pros & Cons
- Faster load time and displays page quickly
- More secure – less vulnerable to hacks without a database
- Less expensive to host and maintain
- Less complex to setup
- No CMS, developer required to make updates
- Can’t display dynamic content to users
- Less engaging then interactive sites
Should you build a Static or Dynamic Site?
Here are some questions that help determine if you should build a dynamic or static website.
How large is the website (now and in the future)?
A simpler website with a few pages might be a good candidate for a static website. Websites with lots of pages or content that is continually being updated might be better as dynamic websites. If your website is going to be continually updated or grow large over time, it might be easier to manage a dynamic website.
Who is managing the website?
If the person that will be managing your website doesn’t know HTML or how to code, you might want to consider a dynamic site. Most dynamic websites have web based Content Management Systems or Web based logins where administrators can login and manage changes without having to code. Static sites need to be updated manually and if you can’t make updates on your own, it might get expensive to pay developers for every update.
How often will the site be changed or update?
Making updates to static sites will be more time consuming than dynamic sites. If there are a lot of updates or multiple people working on the website at the same time, a dynamic site is probably the best.
Some general resources to get started with static or dynamic websites:
You can spend hours researching this on-line so we won’t go into detail, but here are some good places to start.
WordPress – If you haven’t heard of WordPress it is a great place to get started for Dynamic Websites. This is the most popular framework for creating dynamic sites in the World, it is free and open source, and there are countless resources, developers and plugins available.
W3schools – This is a great resource to learn more about HTML and get started with static websites.
Bootstrap – This is one of the more popular frame work for both static or dynamic sites. A bit more for users who are not afraid of code
About the websites we build at Van West Media
Van West Media specializes custom built dynamic websites, although we have built static websites for specific situations. VWM’s custom websites include a CMS that allows clients to manage most aspects of their own site, reducing client cost and increasing the interaction with visitors. A majority of VWM’s custom websites are built on WordPress – the most popular CMS in the world.
Static vs Dynamic Website Infographic: