We distinguish two types of websites: static and dynamic. Static web pages are those that are fixed and display the same content for each user, usually written exclusively in HTML. In the beginning, all websites were static, but as user needs grew, there was a need for a more advanced form of the page, a dynamic page. A dynamic website can display dynamically different content on the same page and thus provide two-way user interaction using advanced programming and databases in addition to HTML. As you can see, static websites are a simple solution, while dynamic websites are not and require more work. Dynamic websites are a complex solution with a lot of different elements that need to be successfully arranged and managed for everything to work.
In this article, I will compare the differences between static and dynamic websites. They will teach you to distinguish static from dynamic websites and more importantly decide which type is best for you.
Before we get into the details you should understand how the Internet serves websites in general. Internet communication includes a server and an Internet browser.
To establish a connection between the two, a set of rules called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is used. Simply put, the internet browser transmits the HTTP request to the server, and it then responds with an HTTP response along with the requested web page in HTML.
What is a static website?
Static websites usually come with a fixed number of pages with a certain look. When a page is launched in a browser, the content is static and does not change in response to user actions. A static web page is usually created with HTML, CSS, and JS.
So if you need an internet site that won’t change often, the right choice is a static website or often called a brochure page. Building static websites today does not require more time and effort than is the case with dynamic websites but once created static websites do not have to be maintained and are easy to operate and cannot be hacked or crashed.
What is a dynamic website?
Compared to static websites, which are purely informative, dynamic websites provide advanced functionality. Dynamic websites allow users to interact with the site more and to store now information or arrange pages per their specific needs.
While static websites use only client-side languages HTML, CSS, and JS, dynamic websites rely also on server-side scripting languages, such as PHP. When a user accesses a dynamic website, the page is assembled like a puzzle on the server-side so on every request dynamic website can be changed using code running in a browser and/or on a server depending on data stored in the database.
Dynamic websites are not built so for every request they consume resources for a complex dance of technologies that need to takes place in the background before the visitor is served with content. If one process fails user/visitor will not be served with content. This is a concept that does not exist with static websites that are premade and served immediately exactly as they are written/stored.
Static vs dynamic battle
The word static refers to something that is fixed, that does not move or change in any way. That’s enough to figure out what a static page is. No element on this page changes when accessed. Static websites are basic pages that require simple elements of code and design. “Static” also refers to an internet site that is fixed in terms of the number of pages. A fixed number of pages is delivered exactly as it was designed and stored.
In contrast, the word dynamic refers to elements that are constantly changing, that are interactive, and functional. Instead of being just informative, dynamic websites include aspects that are characterized by interactivity and functionality. They are far more complex and versatile in every sense than static pages.
When static and dynamic websites are discussed from a technical point of view, the differences between the two types of websites become even clearer. Static websites contain only fixed content that is easily served and scaled today using CDN services. The only way a user can communicate with a static page is by clicking on hyperlinks and filling out forms (like a contact form). Static pages allow one-way communication from the server to the visitor.
Dynamic web pages are ultimately also based on HTML and CSS, but their operation requires server-side scripting often PHP. HTML coding is used to create basic design elements, while server-side languages are used to manage events and control actions that can occur on a dynamic page. For example, the WordPress CMS is used to run dynamic websites. It has an administrative interface and allows interactive content creation, communication in both directions with a user.
To create a static website, we need to code it. Today, however, there are dynamic development frameworks such as Hugo and Gatsby JS that enable the fast and efficient creation of large and complex static pages. Such modern tools are increasingly being applied and developed due to the advantages of static website’s safety and speed of operation in case of high traffic. In any production, we always want to eliminate dynamics and stick with static that is more predictable and easier to deal with.
A dynamic website generates the content and displays it based on the actions that users perform on the page. User preferences change what is displayed to them based on the sophistication of the website. Dynamic systems today are often set up from the administrative interface and it is rarely necessary to write code but when needed the task is not easy and it is often an expensive process that never ends because today’s systems are constantly changing and written code needs to be evaluated and maintained. Once again with dynamic sites if one component in a chain fails they all fail and users will not be served.
What to choose then?
If you want to create a website, you need to determine the purpose of the website and the availability of resources that you have. I will recommend that you start with the static website and add dynamic functionality to the solution as your needs grow. You will never use only one or the other there will always be a need for both.
Most dynamic websites like WordPress are offered today because they are easy to set up and you can expand them with additional functionality in the future. Such systems can create a page interactively by arranging the element via a website builder, which means that you do not have to know how to program to create a page, but you can arrange the predefined elements according to your wishes and needs. This is the reason why the supply and demand for such solutions are great and the barrier for entry is low.
Static websites are intended for those who want a simple solution or need more security and scalability. The content is read-only and informative which is often enough. Static websites can still look great and effectively fulfill their goal of informing users. Moreover, various platforms can be connected to static pages, which can be dynamic and enable specific functionality, such as PayPal, where a button on a static page leads to PayPal, which further sells your product or service.
The main difference between the two comes down to the cost you will have in the long run which does not benefit the dynamic pages. Dynamic pages consume resources, especially as your traffic grows and systems need to be maintained, while static pages do not consume almost any resources and do not need to be maintained and can be used by a virtually unlimited number of visitors. This is why large brands prefer modern static site generators and are building hybrids with headless CMS systems.
If you are still not sure what to do book a call and let’s decide together which is better for you.