During the early years of the Internet, all websites were far simpler than they are today, relying solely on static pages programmed in HTML, a mark-up language invented in 1993. A few years later, the CSS style sheet language was released, allowing Web designers to customize their webpages by formatting textual content using different fonts, colours and sizes. However, things have moved on a great deal since the nineties, and dynamic websites with dynamically driven content are now the mainstream. In the process, Web design has become much more developed while also becoming simpler for the average person. Today, almost anyone can design a website with a minimal learning curve and a virtually non-existent knowledge of HTML or CSS.
What Are Static Websites?
A static website consists of one or more webpages programmed in HTML, with each HTML file representing a single page. When you visit a static website, each page is rendered separately from the HTML file which is basically a text file including various lines of code to render things like links, buttons, frames and other on-page elements. In terms of programming, a static website is far simpler than the dynamic websites which have become mainstream on the modern Internet. One page does one thing, and no content needs to be loaded up from a dynamically updated database in order to display the website. Because of their inherent simplicity, static websites are usually faster (make your dynamic site faster with these 11 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Blog), and in theory, more versatile. However, for the most part, the advantages of having a static website stop here.
Although static websites relying solely on a series of HTML files representing each webpage provide you with more control over design, structure and search engine optimization (SEO), they are not best suited to today’s extremely content-driven Internet. For example, if you want to have the same footer or header for each page on your website, you’ll have to replicate its contents manually on each HTML page. When you want to update some information in the footer, header or any other on-page element, you’ll have to repeat the process for each HTML file which you want to carry the information over to. Likewise, any navigational or structural changes need to be made individually on each page – you can’t simply choose a new theme, edit it and be done with it.
With static websites, you’ll have to code every on-page element and function separately for each page you want it to appear on. There are no plug-ins or extensions which can add functionality to a static website, although there are scripts available to make the process of adding functionality to a static website a little easier. Likewise, there are also templates available, but again, you will need to code in the information for every page of your website.
In conclusion, static websites are simply a nightmare to update if they are fairly large and content-driven, and there is minimal scope for facilitating user interaction either.
What Are Dynamic Websites?
A dynamic website is one which uses a framework to deliver dynamic content, and each time someone visits such a website, the page is built after calling on the content stored in a database on the server. Dynamic websites are designed using a content management system (CMS), a program which provides the necessary framework to easily publish, edit and customize content without having to code each page individually.
A CMS uses a server-side programming language, such as PHP, which effectively provides all of the building blocks necessary to build a dynamic and highly customizable website. Modern CMSs typically provide a huge range of functions which can easily be applied across an entire website or just a part of it, and in many cases, these functions are highly customizable. Many of the most popular platforms also come with huge repositories of plug-ins to add additionally functionality to a website and a whole raft of customizable themes which allow designers to change the entire look and feel of their websites with just a few clicks.
While smaller and more basic everyday websites still tend to be static in nature, content management systems have become extremely popular. Presently, the most popular CMS is WordPress, with almost a quarter of all of the world’s websites using it. The other most popular CMSs are Joomla, which is behind about three percent of all websites, and Drupal, which is the CMS of choice for about two percent.
Why Dynamic Websites Are Better than Static Ones
The modern Internet is highly content-driven, and having a dynamic website allows you to deliver content, whether text, images or video, in a far more efficient manner without having to manually alter the structure of your website by editing individual HTML files. Dynamic websites are better than static ones in a wide variety of applications, and in most situations, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
. A dynamic website driven by any of the popular modern content management systems is far easier to design and update, making it ideal for beginners in Web design or online marketing. In fact, you don’t actually need to know a thing about HTML or any other coding to publish a website these days. Nonetheless, the flexibility afforded by any modern CMS allows even beginners to create a fully customized and versatile website.
. Updating a dynamic website is simply a matter of logging into your CMS administration page and publishing or editing content, rearranging things like on-page elements, customizing themes and adding additional functionality by way of plug-ins. With a dynamic website, each on-page element can be modified, and these changes are carried over across all of the pages containing that element. Design and content updates only need to be done once rather than done manually with every individual page.
. The database for a dynamic website allows for greater flexibility due to the fact that such websites call upon the database when rendering pages whenever people visit them. With this degree of flexibility, it is even possible to have multiple websites delivering content from the same database. Having all of your content and website customizations contained in a single database also makes it easier to search through content, determine how, when and where it appears and back everything up.
. Anyone can add and edit content using a popular CMS such as WordPress. The process is as easy as using any conventional word processor or composing an email. With WordPress, for example, publishing a new blog post or other article is simply a matter of logging into the administrator dashboard, writing a new post and clicking ‘Publish’. Basically, publishing new content for a website is something that almost anyone can do, and for businesses, this negates the necessity to provide additional staff training.
. There are vast databases of themes and plug-ins available for popular CMSs like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Themes allow you to change the entire look and feel of your website with just a few clicks, and many of them are highly customizable, particularly if you have a reasonable knowledge of CSS and HTML. Plug-ins, also known as modules or add-ins, depending on the CMS, add additional functionality to your website. For example, you can easily add on-site polls to a WordPress blog simply by using an appropriate plug-in, since a base WordPress installation does not include this function.
. If you are paying a Web design team to build your website, it will typically be far cheaper if they use a CMS rather than designing a static website from scratch, since the former is far quicker and simpler to use.
. Today’s CMSs are constantly updated to address a whole raft of issues such as security, reliability, performance and functionality, making these important factors much easier to take care of than if you were relying on a static website.
. Dynamic websites can greatly improve the way in which you interact with your visitors. For example, you may have a comments section for each page of content on your website allowing your visitors to leave valuable feedback, start conversations or give you the opportunity to engage your audience directly.
Dynamic websites do still have their disadvantages, some of which are quite significant in certain applications. For a start, a dynamic website will always come with some extra bloat which will slow it down, and no CMS will ever suit your needs in absolutely every possible way. Fortunately, however, as the popular platforms become more sophisticated, and owing to the ever-expanding selections of additional themes and plug-ins available, these disadvantages are getting less and less significant.
In conclusion, most small businesses and individuals will be better off choosing a content management system and having a dynamic website, particularly if they intend to drive a content marketing strategy by way of blogging or some other online medium. For the most part, the only situations where using a static website coded from scratch from the ground up are those in which an advanced, highly customized online application is required or when all you need is a simple website with just a few pages offering something like a special time-limited promotion or basic information about a traditional bricks-and-mortar business.