On the Internet, there are so many different static websites that it has become commonplace. You don’t necessarily realize off the bat whether a website is static or not, but the odds are good that the site is static if it’s for a small company and the site looks simple. A static website won’t spark any whistles and bells.
It is only possible to update such a website if you have specific web development skills. On the other hand, such websites are certainly the easiest to host, develop and maintain, so many startup and newer companies quickly put one together to put a footprint on the Internet.
A basic, static website largely consists of a handful of HTML files, each of which represents a page that appears on the website online. On a static website, each page that you can click and view is its own HTML file. That means when you view the home page of the website, you are looking at the homepage file, which is most likely “index.html.” Even if you see two different pages with content that is the same on both pages, you would be looking at two separate HTML files. If I wanted to update something that appears constant across a static site, every file would have to be maintained to update the instance of the change. Because it’s a straightforward and simple method, this is how all the early websites were built back when the Internet was developed for the public.
Dynamic websites are those that use HTML and CSS, just like static websites, as well as additional scripting for the website. There are two primary reasons that you would want to use such a concept for your website:
- You need to share HTML code across different pages on your website
- You need a web app that people can interact with rather than read
Is My Website Dynamic or Static?
There’s a nearly foolproof way to compare a dynamic website and a static website; can you print the website and still use it the way it was meant to be used?
If your website is a static website, it’s a purely informational site that is meant just to be read and not interacted with in any way other than using hyperlinks. That means you can print out the website and still read it just fine, although you couldn’t use the hyperlinks, of course. If your website is one that would lose some functionality when it was printed out, then it is a dynamic website.
As a matter of fact, there are two different categories of dynamic interactivity to consider: back- and front-end scripts. Sometimes, these may be referred to as server side and client side scripts.
Using Static Websites Saves Resources
Although there are plenty of benefits to having a dynamic website, having one can load up your website on too many excess resources. The website can try to load too much content and instead loads slowly. If there is one page that gets requested over and over again, and you don’t have anything on the page itself that changes, it doesn’t help your server resources to dynamically generate that page repeatedly.
Say, for example, that a page I created called “page.php” gets requested a thousand times during the hour because it gains sudden popularity. Every time the page is requested by the browser, a PHP script creates variables in the website that exist in the code. If the average time that my server must spend running the script is about 0.2 CPU seconds, that means a cost of about 200 CPU seconds during that hour.
If my page continues to be hit consistently with the same amount of traffic, then it’s definitely a waste of your computer power to make that same page repeatedly when it never changes. In this instance, it really helps to just make a static page that can handle the display of that popular page.
Using a static page requires just using the raw HTML data that makes a page once in a file. The web browser will request the already-made page directly, and the server just needs to show it as it is written.
Static versus Dynamic Websites
Depending on the needs that you have for your website, it can work just fine having either a static or a dynamic website. In fact, the best of both worlds would use some sort of cache and plugin combination for a dynamic website so that you can automatically turn high-traffic dynamic pages into a static page.
There are a number of benefits associated with dynamic websites.
- Easier design updates. Since all the parts of the web page are separate, it’s easier to update something across the pages at once. For example, changing this website’s navigation only requires changing the file that contains the navigation information. Once I’ve done that, it updates on every page that has that file. With a static website, I’d need to edit all pages to ensure the site navigation was consistent. This is needlessly tedious behavior that’s prone to error.
- Easier to update content. Dynamic websites that use a content management system make it much easier for someone without technical experience to create, update and maintain the content of the website. Since there are different parts of the page managed separately, there is no need for the content creator to know HTML to make a new article or a new page for the dynamic website. Instead, to make a new page, I can just write the content and allow my dynamic website to handle it for me. With a static website, a content creator would need to know HTML or hire someone who can understand the language so that they could have a new page for their website.
Are there disadvantages? That depends on what kind of website you need to make. Dynamic sites take longer to get started than a static website since there’s a more complex code and structure involved. However, in the vast majority of cases, any savings that you initially have by using a static website will be pennies compared to how much time you will need to spend on updating the website and revising it manually.
On the other hand, if you need a website that is only around to display one or two pages or only exists for a certain period of time for a promotion, then you might find a static site works better in your favor. If something is going to be taken down after a period of time has passed, there’s no need to spend time on a dynamic website. However, dynamic websites do pay off in the long run in most cases.
One argument in favor of dynamic sites in the debate of static versus dynamic websites is flexibility; one example would be a WordPress cache plugin, which turns a dynamic blog into one that makes static pages when a dynamic one doesn’t make sense.