The Big Decision: Static or Dynamic?

When you are getting ready to build a new site or redesign your current one there are a lot of decisions that you will need to make – what it will look like, what content you are providing, how you will market the site, and who will be updating the site, to name a few! One of the most important decisions is who is going to be developing the site. Every development team has their own methods and ways of creating a solution for your web needs. Some teams build static websites and others go with dynamic sites. Both sites look the same to you visitors, but make a huge difference in how content is edited. So what is that difference? Let me explain.

Girl Static Electricity
Photo Credit: deltaMike

Static Sites

Each page on a static site is an HTML file that is on your web server. To edit these pages you make changes to the correct file and then upload that edited file to the server. Web companies who create static sites for clients will often offer maintenance contracts for all updates since the developers are the ones with access to the files (and getting into the code to make edits can be daunting for many clients).

Another option that some companies set up is to allow users to access the files using a page editing software such as Dreamweaver or Contribute. These are not content management systems (CMS), but instead software you install that allows you to edit the pages on your own computer through a WYSIWYG preview editor and then upload them to the server.

Static sites tend to be quicker to develop than dynamic sites and are usually more affordable as well. However, since you are getting into the code they are harder for a non-developer to update. If the administrator is using page editing software but is not trained properly, there can be mistakes that can overwrite pages or crash the site.

You are also only able to edit content on a computer where you have the software installed to download the files, edit them, and upload them. Because of this, it is more difficult to edit the content, and if the content is not being edited it can stagnate.

Dynamic Sites

A dynamic website is also run through files on a server, but all the page content is saved in a database. Typically the template files (what make the site look unique) are on the server and all pages on the site are in the database. When a visitor gets to a page on your site, the system will access the database to pull out the correct information. Administrators can easily log into the administrative interface through the web to update a site. So, once a dynamic site is set up on a server, administrators have the ability to edit content from anywhere they have access to the internet.

Dynamic sites allow for much more than the basic pages of a static site; you can have interactive elements such as e-commerce, forums, and membership areas. Technically, you can have blog posts, news listings, and other features on your static website, but you have to add a new static page and edit the listing page to get new posts on the site. With a dynamic site you can organize and sort posts through the database, as well as provide automatic feeds throughout your site in a template (such as a news feed or a list of the most recent blog posts). Because of this extra functionality, a dynamic site is more expensive and takes more time to develop than setting up static pages.

Which One is Right for Me?

The decision on what type of site you should have depends on the size of the site, the level of involvement that you want, and how often you plan on updating your content.

Large sites are better organized through a CMS database, where as small, simple sites can be maintained with no problem as static pages. If you do not have the time to organize and add content to your website, or you do not plan on having frequent updates, then a static site with a maintenance contract may be your best bet.

If you do have a static site, just make sure you don’t forget about it! Even if your products or services do not change often, you still want to make sure that your website has fresh, up to date content – this is important for visitors and for search engines!

Using a CMS has a lot of perks, but it does take more time than just sending your updates to a maintenance team and it may not be right for you. Whatever you decide, make sure you know what types of content you will include on your site and create your strategy so that you know what type of system will support your needs in the future!