Static vs Dynamic websites – what’s the difference?

When developing a website there is ultimately two approaches to take, you can either opt for a static or dynamic website, but what does that really mean for website owners or even website designs?

Static vs. Dynamic Websites
Static vs. Dynamic Websites

What is a Static Website?

A Static Website refers to a website where the information (and code) that makes up the website does not change – it remains static. In most cases this means each page on the website uses its own unique code, which ultimately allows the developer to create unique layouts for each page.

Static websites are generally used in brochure-styled websites, where the content on the website may rarely or never change – this has some search engine optimisation implications, but depending on the need of the website this approach has its time and place.

While the code for each page is unique to the page, the major downside to this approach is the overall and long-term maintenance. A web designer or developer is required to perform any and ALL changes on the website, from the code to the content, costing you money. In addition to this, depending on the method the code was written in, if a small change is required on your navigation, the change has to be made on ALL of the pages individually. Now just imagine your website has 50 or 100 pages…

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF A STATIC WEBSITE

Static websites defiantly has a place on the internet, and if used correctly could be very cost-effective for the client; however if used incorrectly could end up costing the client an arm and a leg.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Speed – Due to the fact that the website contains static content the content is added directly onto the page, this means that no requests are made to a database which could decrease the speed of a website. No dynamic content – One of the major disadvantages of a static website is the mere fact that it does not allow for any dynamic content, thus the website remains static – which means there is nothing new to see for visitors or Google, eventually affecting the search engine ranking of the website.
Flexibility – Since each page on the website has its own code, it is easier to create unique designs for each page as the developer is in control of the exact content, code, positioning, etc. on the page. Harder to maintain – Not only do you need a developer to update the website, depending on the change request and the size of the website the changes may become costly. If the website will require regular updates, it is recommended to first consider the long-term cost implications for the maintenance. It may be cheaper in the long run to pay more for a dynamic website now, than a static website in the long run.
Easy to create – Since each page on the website contains its own code it is rather easy to create a static website. It may become time consuming (and expensive) depending on the complexity of each page and the size of the website; however in the end of the day the developer is in a lot of control. No interactivity – Another downside to static websites is the limited opportunity for interactivity. Due to the fact that the content rarely changes, visitors are less likely to return to your website.


What is a Dynamic Website?

A Dynamic Website means the content (and / or pages) can change dynamically. The content (text and images) are generally fed from a database and a Content Management System (CMS) is used to update and maintain the content displayed on a website. This approach opens up a lot of options on the flexibility and functionality of your website.

As soon as a website requires regular updating of the content, a dynamic website is recommended, because it allows the client to update the content, images, document, videos, etc. in-house.

The coding and technical side of a dynamic website is much more complex than that of a static website; however the most important thing to remember is that dynamic websites require CONSISTENCY in its layout. This does not mean that all of the pages on the website will look 100% the same; however it does mean that the elements used on the pages need to remain consistent.

For instance, when a dynamic website is designed various templates are created. Each page style is transformed into a specific template and this template needs to accommodate all elements (whether it content or banners) on the page. E.g. when a content template is created the template may be created in such a way that the administrator can populate the page with content, images, PDF documents, video’s, etc. This does not mean that each page will consist of the content elements; however the manner in which they are used (or appears) on a page should remain consistent.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF A DYNAMIC WEBSITE

Dynamic websites are more widely used today than ever before, thus it is safe to assume that the majority of websites (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, BBC, CNN, etc.) uses dynamic websites.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Dynamically generates content – Dynamic websites are ideally used in cases where the websites content updates on a regular basis, whether it be a blog on a personal website or a well-known news website. Constraints in design – Due to the consistency in layout required by dynamic websites, the pages tend to less creative and visually mind-blowing. While this is perfectly possible, it is more difficult to achieve.
Makes use of a database – Dynamic websites make use of databases to extract information from, thus the maintenance of websites become easier as the content is updated once and used on multiple pages of the website. Time Consuming – Depending on several elements, the time taken to complete a dynamic website is a lot longer (initially); however in the long run the overall maintenance is done quicker and cheaper.
No HTML skills required – Dynamic websites can be maintained by almost anyone, no prior HTML skills are required. Initial Cost – Initially dynamic websites are more expensive than static websites, especially in cases where the website has a lot of features and functionalities; however the long-term maintenance is a lot less as the website can be managed and maintained by the client in-house.
Re-designing is easier – Because all of the content displayed on a dynamic website is stored in a database the front-facing side of the website can easily be changed without losing the content added to it, as long as the layout allows for the content to be extracted in exactly the same method the front-end can be changed.  
Increased Features & Functionality – Dynamic websites allows for more complex features and functionalities to be made available. For instance, websites like Facebook allows millions of people to connect. In addition to this, the features on the website automatically recommend content, friends, etc. Dynamic websites tend to be more-intelligent in creating an overall user experience.  
Increased Interactivity – Dynamic websites increases the overall interactivity on a website, thus ensuring a good user experience.  

Kindly note that these are not all of the advantages and disadvantages of static and dynamic websites; however it does provide a good indication as to what the main differences are.

How to know which approach to use?

As a client, you rarely care about the approach taken, however due to the cost implications it is important that you play an active role in terms of deciding what approach should be taken on your website.
So the next time you approach your web designer (or developer) for a new website, here are a couple of questions you can ask them (and yourself), to make the decision easier.

  • What is the main aim of the website? Should it display static content that will NEVER or RARELY be changed or will the content change constantly?
  • What is the maintenance cost of the website?
  • Who will be maintaining the website?
  • How often should the front-end change of the website?

What do you think?

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