Which one should you choose?
Your web designer may ask you if you have a preference over a static or a dynamic website for the new design she’s about to create for you. Rest assured, a dynamic website won’t Speedy Gonzalez on you! It’s important for you to know the differences between those two types of websites, so you can determine what the best solution is for yours.
Quite simply, a static website cannot change without your designer or developer editing its source code every time. In its infancy stages, the internet was almost entirely composed of static websites, painstakingly edited by hand for every update. Up until the mid-2000’s or so, this was the case.
On the other hand, a dynamic website’s content can be easily edited using a simple text editor, while the source code remains untouched. Dynamic websites are often built using templates, and the texts and images are editable while the layout barely changes from page to page.
Let’s go more in-depth into the differences between a static and a dynamic website.
In a static website, you would generally have a fixed number of pages. This is because this type of website is rarely updated, and acts more as a storefront (name, address, phone number, services) than an e-commerce, portfolio or blog website. The reason why a static website is best suited for small websites stems from the fact that if, for example, the header, logo or footer need to be changed, then someone will need to manually update each instance on every page of the website, rendering the operation rather time-consuming and tedious. Imagine this on a 100-page website!
A static website is created with bare bones HTML and CSS on a simple text editor software like Notepad or Adobe Dreamweaver (if you prefer a WYSIWYG editor). It is best suited for smaller businesses who prefer to have a smaller presence on the internet.
Moreover, static websites are more secure than dynamic websites, as attacks can be frequent on the back-end. Static websites reliably offer quicker loading times than their dynamic counterparts, due to dynamic websites having to essentially assemble pieces together before displaying a web page. As well, static websites are cheaper to produce and to host, as it doesn’t require much in terms of programming besides the HTML, CSS and JS languages to build it with.
However, the caveat for static websites is that it can be tedious to update.
On the other hand, a dynamic website is created and edited using MySQL databases and languages like PHP, ASP.net, Jquery, JSP and more, that glue different pieces of every page together. For example, a WordPress website’s homepage is built from several parts: the header and footer have their own PHP pages that are then glued to the rest of the PHP pages contained in the homepage. The header needs to be changed on every page? Simple: just edit the header.php page and voilà, the change is instantly reflected throughout the whole website. This prevents having to painstakingly edit the header on every page ever created on a website.
Dynamic websites can also display unique content for each visitor, like A/B tests, which help marketing departments find out which content is better received by visitors. Said content can also vary according to the visitor’s browser size, operating system, device type, or ever the source (link) the visitor came from.
Additionally, menus on dynamic websites can automatically update themselves when new pages or posts are published, and can also reflect the visitor’s favourite topics or products, too.
As such, dynamic websites are best suited for e-commerce stores, portfolios, blogs and other large websites that require frequent website updates to attract their clientele.
These were some of the main differences between static and dynamic websites. In short, static websites are best suited for smaller websites that require infrequent or no updates. Meanwhile, dynamic websites are best suited for larger websites that require frequent updates, like blogs, stores, portfolios, and more.
It is important to note that, while there is a clear preference from search engines for frequently updated websites, there is no right or wrong decision here. The factor you need to look at when choosing between static and dynamic is this: are you going to actively update this thing? If yes, then your best bet is a dynamic website. If no, then you are probably better off with a static website.