Static vs Dynamic Websites – Which Should You Choose?

Nowadays it is not a question that having a website is quite important. But there are key differences between the sites, and one of them is the way how they serve the visitors with content. Basically, content showing can be static or dynamic and, in this article, we are going to explain you what are they and which of them you should choose.

Static Websites

As the name implies, static websites are built up by using static pages. The elements are fixed and previously coded and placed on the web server. Once a visitor visits your site, he or she will be served with the files from the server and all visitors will get the same content.

There are some advantages of having static content:

  • Usually less effort is needed to build up static sites, they contain mostly HTML codes among with CSS style elements.
  • Because of less effort, static sites might be cheaper and can be done faster.
  • Static elements do not need advanced web hosting solutions, like up to date PHP environment, so free hosting services also can be used as storage.
  • Static content often uses less complex elements, therefore the website can be loaded faster in the web browser.

We also should go through disadvantages as well:

  • A static website’s pages are often coded into independent files, they even use the same elements as the footer or menu. This means if you want to change something in the menu you should edit all the subpage files one by one, instead of modifying the menu in a collectively used file.
  • Advanced functions, interactivity or other modern website features are not available in most cases by using only static website elements.

Dynamic Websites

It is vital to understand how dynamic websites work. While static websites’ HTML files are copied over from the server to your web browser as they are, dynamic sites do it differently.

PHP is one of the most commonly used programming language to build up dynamic sites and .php files are code pieces that do something when a visitor opens the website. Because this is programming, they can show almost anything that the programmer wrote into code. Once a visitor opens the website, the server runs the PHP codes and generates a HTML file just for the visitor. While static pages show the same stored HTML files, dynamic pages generates brand new HTML files for each visitors.

For example, if you have a site you can add a PHP code piece to it to show the actual date and time at top. It can be easy to understand why this is good, the date and time can be different for each visitors, so this feature needs dynamic assets. Obviously, dynamic elements can be used for more advanced function than showing the timestamp, let’s check then the advantages of using dynamic websites:

  • Dynamic website elements can be handled independently and the site served to visitor can be build up on the fly, by using these elements. In contrast with static websites, site parts like menu can be stored in a single file and shared with the same subpages. Just imagine, instead of modifying the menu on all subpage files, you can edit it only in a single file. It goes without saying how this solution is more convenient, errorless and time consuming.
  • Dynamic pages can share the same database with each other and the data can be edited and saved in real time. This is vital, when you work with data. You don’t have to hard coded the values into your website’s code and edit them manually on all of pages, you just have to ask the database to serve the up to date data version. Having structured databases is the key of the modern Internet and one of the biggest advantages of dynamically created web sites.
  • The type and number of website elements you can use on your website is almost unlimited with dynamic website rendering. You just need a programmer who transfers your ideas to code and the site will display it to your visitors. The modern websites on the net all use similar solutions, from Google through YouTube to Facebook. Just use your imagine and make an amazing website!
  • There are Content Management Systems (CMS) on the market, many of them are free of charge, like WordPress. These CMS use databases and dynamical content displaying thus amazingly making a website owner’s life easy. You just need to install a CMS or buy an instance of it to start working on your site. This can be done without knowing any single programming language, so you can really focus on sharing your ideas with public.

If we have gone through on advantages of dynamic websites, we should cover the disadvantages as well. To mention a few:

  • Dynamic websites are more robust and heavy weighted than static sites. This is not a wonder, since more functions and assets need more space and server resources, therefore they can be displayed slower. Counting the fact that website load time is a key factor of ranking websites in Google, you should be sure that you really need a dynamic website.
  • Advanced features need programming knowledge, so if you are not a programmer you might pay a great amount of money to build up your site. The amount will be higher and higher once you start to add more and more features.
  • Dynamic code pieces are often less fault tolerant than static ones. For example, if you write something wrong in static HTML, the site will still be shown in the browser. In worst case, the visitor will see a piece of code as text on the site. In contrast with this, if you write something wrong in PHP, the site will be broken, and the visitor will see only an error message. You see it well, only a single mistake in PHP can totally inhibit the browser to show your website for your visitors. This can be annoying when you don’t realize the mistake and your site is down for a long period.

Summary – Which Should You Choose?

By now you might understand that using static elements can be ideal for starter websites. If you only want to have “something” on the Internet and it won’t be changed in the near future, use this kind of websites. Just quickly upload your résumé or store details and you already have online presence in few steps.

By contrast of it, if you want to have a website full of dynamically changed content, or there will be a database behind it, you should choose a dynamic website. Event it is more expensive and less fault-tolerant, some ideas can’t be realized without it. Just think about what you need exactly and choose the appropriate content displaying!

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David Cross

David is the chief editor at WebHostingMedia right from the beginning. He has a great passion for building and managing websites and creating helpful content. He is also interested in programming - currently learning python.