There are many ways to create a website, but they all come down to two fundamental types – static and dynamic websites. We look at the differences between them, and how to decide which is the best time to use static or dynamic content.

What is a static website?

The clue’s in the name – a static website primarily loads ‘static’ content. In this context, this is content that has been coded into a file with HTML, CSS and sometimes JavaScript. The file is being displayed directly on the website. These tend to be used for sites where content doesn’t often change, or where your aim is to create a website with good page-load times.

To change content in a static site in its most basic form, the developer must make changes to the code in the file directly, and upload it to the host again. However, static site generators make this more straightforward.

What is a dynamic website?

Dynamic websites take content and data from a number of locations to render the website. This is primarily done using a server-side language, such as PHP or Javascript (running in Node.js), to connect the data and relevant files together. We constantly use dynamic sites in the form of web applications, including Google Drive, Facebook, and online email sites.

Dynamic websites are able to pull data on the fly, allowing for more functional uses like ecommerce, account systems, and more.

What are the similarities between static and dynamic websites?

Both types of site are primarily created in the same languages. While dynamic websites require knowledge of a server-side language, both types use HTML and CSS for their frontend.

Both static and dynamic websites can handle large amounts of content, including rich text, images and video embedding. They can also both be used to create responsive websites, which automatically adjust the content layout based on whether they’re being viewed on desktop or on mobile. While this seems like a ‘dynamic’ feature, it can be done on a static site as this is controlled by the HTML and CSS on the page.

While both types of websites require development knowledge if they’re being created from scratch, there are ways of creating static and dynamic content using other tools to avoid heavy programming. Dynamic websites can be created using existing tools such as website builder and content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress. Static sites can also be created with a CMS, but can also be quickly created using a static site generator such as Hugo or Jekyll.

Benefits of a static website

Due to their relative simplicity, a static website doesn’t require as much development know-how as a dynamic website might to build from scratch. With just a notepad document, anyone can create a file in HTML and CSS which contains their content. This works well for those who have only basic development experience, and simply want to create a website consisting of a few pages that display information.

On the other hand, a dynamic website requires a lot more development knowledge to build if you’re starting with nothing. For instance, rather than just using HTML and CSS, the developer would need to be familiar with the backend language used, as well as having an understanding of databases.

Another benefit of static sites is that they greatly improve page load times compared to dynamic websites. As the browser doesn’t need to make as many requests to the server for resources on a static website, the content can be displayed more quickly. This is a metric measured by Google for SEO purposes, so decreasing the page load time of your website by creating static content is a great way to increase its ranking on Google.

Benefits of a dynamic website

While a static site provides faster loading times, dynamic websites make up for it in functionality and ease of use. Where static sites are most effective when the data doesn’t change often, dynamic sites can alter their data as the user navigates the website.

For example, the ‘latest stories’ area of a news website will almost always be dynamic. The processes of adding a story to the site, and the ‘latest’ area loading the most recent stories both rely on a database accessible via the site’s backend.

If a CMS or website builder is being used to create a dynamic website, the difficulty of creating it from scratch is negated, and it becomes far easier than even writing the HTML and CSS files for a static site.

Instead of the site owner needing to ask the developer to manually make changes to the content (for example if a new blog post needs to be added), they can simply log in to the CMS or builder and make the changes themselves. This also prevents the developer needing to charge the owner more money to make continual amendments to the content.

Static vs dynamic websites

Deciding which type of site you should use depends on what its purpose is, and what resources are available to you.

If your site consists of three pages or fewer, and you don’t expect the content to change often, then a static site would be more suitable for you. They come with improved loading times, so it’s easier for sites containing static content to rank more highly on Google – bringing in more traffic.

Due to their comparatively smaller size, they also lend themselves well to shared web hosting plans, and if the content doesn’t need to be updated, they can be set up and left to run.

However, if you’re looking for a website that’s more functional – whether it’s an online shop, a blog, or a forum – a dynamic website could suit your scope better. This way, you’ll be able to control and change the content as much as you like. It also allows for any features that change the content based on user input – such as account systems and user profiles.

Of course, creating a dynamic website from scratch can get costly due to the frontend and backend development knowledge it requires. But if you’re looking for a more cost-effective option which gives you all the functionality you need, a website builder package can help you create your own dynamic website without the development overhead.

Simply drag and drop the elements you want, and you can create a professional blog or online shop that you can update whenever you like. Take a look at our Website Builder packages to see how you can get started.