There’s nothing like the rush of excitement and motivation when you first pursue your dreams — a passion project, hobby, or even a new business or career. Perhaps you’re ready to change the world for good, or you’ve discovered a great new idea and are prepared to make it a reality.
Whatever it is, you’re likely going to need to create your own website. As you start your journey, you’ll need to answer questions. Some are easier than others. If you’ve just reached the crossroads of a static vs. dynamic website, we’re here to help.
These terms refer to how a website displays and delivers content. While one type usually loads faster, the other offers more complexity and features for future growth.
There are some technical explanations that we’ll get into below, but the concepts of the two site types are generally like they sound — static sites stay the same long-term, while dynamic sites are frequently updated and may display different content based on individual visitor and real-time factors.
Both have advantages and will impact what you can do moving forward, so this is an important decision.
Below, we’ll explain what static and dynamic websites are and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Then we’ll explore critical differences to help you better decide the best option for your site.
What is a Static Website?
Static websites have a set number of pages filled with hardcoded, fixed content that rarely changes.
Each page on a static website is stored as a single HTML file. This content is part of your page’s design, meaning it won’t change unless you edit the HTML code yourself.
Static websites are perfect for small sites with only a few pages and no need for regular changes.
Personal websites, like online resumes, don’t require frequent updates and can be easily created if you know how to write HTML and CSS code. Other examples of static websites include portfolios, company brochures, and landing pages.
What is a Dynamic Website?
A dynamic website is constantly changing and updated with new content. The site can vary the content it displays based on a handful of factors, including user input and behavior.
Dynamic websites are built using server-side programming languages like PHP and are meant for content-heavy sites with a lot of pages. News and real estate sites are two great examples where content may change or new posts may be added regularly.
Dynamic websites are also ideal for eCommerce. These usually have unique requirements and complex functionality, including plugins or custom code. Dynamic websites have the necessary versatility and sophistication not available from static sites.
Static vs. Dynamic Websites: Advantages and Disadvantages
When deciding whether to build a static or dynamic website, you may find it helpful to create a pros and cons list based on your goals. To get you started, we’ve made a list below.
Some of the main advantages of static websites are that they’re easy to:
- View and use since all the content is stored in one place.
- Secure because there’s no need to run server-side code.
- Host on any web server.
Some of the disadvantages of static websites are that they:
- Require coding knowledge to create them.
- Can be challenging to update because they require coding knowledge for that as well.
- Often don’t have the same level of interactivity or features.
- Can be less scalable as your needs grow.
Now let’s take a look at dynamic websites. Some of the main advantages are that they’re:
- Easily updated with new content.
- More scalable and can support more content and traffic.
- Able to be customized to each user.
Some of the disadvantages of dynamic websites are that they:
- Require more server resources.
- Can be less secure than static websites because they rely on server-side code. (A good host cares about security and can help alleviate this problem).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Performance
When comparing static and dynamic sites, you might wonder about each option’s SEO and performance benefits. There’s no definitive answer, and your decision will ultimately come down to the type of website you’re creating and your goals.
Static websites are generally faster because they don’t need to load as many elements. Since visitors’ browsers won’t need to load new content continuously, caching is more effective.
That said, dynamic websites have the advantage of greater flexibility around content — one of the cornerstones of search engine optimization. Google looks at the amount, quality, uniqueness, and topics of content to help determine where to direct searchers for the most relevant information. If your site continually adds quality content and updates older posts to keep up with the changing world, search engines may look more favorably on your site and move it up the search results. And as for speed? There are plenty of ways to improve the speed of a dynamic website. WordPress, for example, can cache sites with the use of any one of several available plugins that make this easy.
Static vs. Dynamic Websites: Building Your Site
Static websites can also be created using a static site generator. This program automatically makes a site from a set of files and templates without having to write HTML or CSS code. Some popular static site generators include Gatsby, Hugo, and Jekyll. However, using static site generators requires a fairly steep learning curve, and file and asset management is awkward. Unless you already have some developer experience, you may run into a lot of issues that will require help – and that help is less easily obtainable than you’d get from more popular dynamic site options like WordPress.
If you’d like to create a dynamic website, the best solution is to use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress to create, edit, and publish content directly on your site.
Can’t decide? Here’s the good news:
WordPress is a CMS that is by far the most popular choice for websites — big and small. Whether you want a lightweight site for a concept that rarely needs to be updated or are starting a news site for the latest happenings at your school, WordPress can make it happen. You can even have pages built to load quickly but include dynamic elements like a blog or eCommerce shop within your website.
WordPress makes publishing content easy for people without much technical knowledge. You generally won’t have to worry about HTML or other programming languages, but you can create your websites using the Block Editor. With this tool, you can drag and drop elements — like paragraphs, images, videos, and columns — to build and design any page you’d like.
You can use a variety of built-in features and add-ons (called plugins) to expand your site with virtually any piece of functionality you can imagine. But you can also use it to create a simple site if you don’t need any complex functionality.