Static vs dynamic sites: the differences, the benefits and which ones to use
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
When it comes to creating a website, knowing what type of website works best for you, and specifically for the functionality of your website, can affect how you choose to build it. Most websites can be defined as static or dynamic, with an increasing number of websites called hybrids - which means that they consist of a mixture of static and dynamic websites.
In the context of creating websites, static and dynamic refers to the ways websites deliver and display content. A static website is one with stable content, where each user sees exactly the same thing on each page. On the other hand, a dynamic website is one where the content is pulled on-the-fly so that the content can be changed with the user.
In this article, we will make sense of the whole debate about static versus dynamic. In the process, we will review important factors you should consider when deciding how to create a website that is right for you:
What is a static website?
What is a dynamic website?
The main differences between a static and dynamic website
A hybrid approach: combine static and dynamic
What is a static website?
Changes to a static website can be made manually and will only be made page by page, HTML file by HTML file. For example, changes made in the HTML file of a website will only be reflected on the website. This applies even to elements that are identical throughout the site, such as the footer. If you use a site builder, changes to static pages will be made automatically each time you use site editor.
One of the most distinctive aspects of a static website is that each user receives and sees exactly the same content. Because of this, static sites work best for sites with fewer pages that do not require frequent updates or changes.
A good candidate for a static website is a resume website. This is a type of site with specified content for each page, and does not require many changes to individual pages, or real-time updates based on user behavior. Other examples of common static website types include personal websites, non-profit websites and purely informative websites (good examples of these include one-page or landing page websites).
Benefits of a static website
Static sites are back - well, in some situations - and we'll go through several main reasons for this comeback.
Faster page loading speed
The composition of a static page prioritizes loading speed, resulting in a better browser experience. Because the content on these types of sites is pre-written and delivered directly from the server, caching is easier and content is less likely to load with delays or UX issues, such as corrupted images.
In general, static websites require less server power, and without database or client server infrastructure to run through, they are naturally faster. Since page load speed is an important part of the way Google rates a website's performance (and it seems to be having a more significant impact on SEO and ranking ranking, too) this ability should not be underestimated.
When time is an issue, a static website is easier to get live faster. Static websites are faster to create and publish, as they are less complex and do not need to be linked to organized content databases.
All that limits the time to go live with a static website is how creative you want to be with each page design. This does not mean that it will be a slow process to create a dynamic alternative, but static pages tend to be easier and consequently faster to distribute.
Potential for increased security
In theory, static websites are potentially more difficult to hack. This is because there are fewer points to attack them from. We will explain:
Static pages do not connect to a database or use external extensions and plugins - all of which can be common entry points for attacks. In comparison, dynamic websites are not inherently insecure, but potential attackers theoretically pose less risk with a static website.
How relevant this is depends entirely on how you choose to build your website. For example, a website or website created on a website builder such as Wix is protected by a variety of protection measures, whether static or dynamic. From DDoS protection and SQL certificates, to extra layers of security provided by TLS 1.2, you do not have to worry about security.
Disadvantages of a static website
After going through the benefits of a static website, we will now cover some of the disadvantages below.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a static website is that it only comes with larger, content-heavy designs. Although it is possible to build hundreds of pages with a static site, it will always be a slow and lengthy process.
Each page on a static website must be built as a separate entity. For a multi-page website, you need to create each page individually.
Less effective management
Static websites can be faster to create, but they can be more time consuming to manage. Editing a static website needs to be done page by page, and as websites are loaded with more content, or rapidly changing content, this becomes a much more challenging - and in some cases almost impossible - task.
What is a dynamic website?
Dynamic websites are built using server-side language and technology, and the content on each page can be delivered and displayed dynamically, or on the go, according to user behavior or from user-generated content.
With a dynamic website, all your data and content is organized in a database or a backend Content Management System (CMS), which connects to your web pages. The way this information is arranged and linked to the design of the website controls how and when the content is revealed on a page.
What does all this mean? Well, dynamic websites give you the ability to customize and customize website content for a specific user. It also allows you to make changes to many pages at once, since changes made to one dynamic page can automatically be made across thousands.
For example, dynamic websites let you choose what information to display to a user based on their location. You can also provide content to users based on their current or past actions on your site (thanks to cookies), which essentially means that each visitor sees a different view of the content on a page. A multilingual website is a good example of when it can be relevant to create a dynamic website.
Generally, dynamic websites are content-heavy and user-driven. Let's say the main purpose of your site is to act as a real estate listing site. You have to generate hundreds of pages to display hundreds of available properties. In order to improve the functionality of your website and meet a user's intentions, the content on these pages must reflect the real - time availability of the properties. Using dynamic pages will be the most effective way to display these changes on your site.
Event sites, e-commerce sites, online forums, member sites, portfolio sites and blogs are some other types of sites that benefit from being dynamic.
Benefits of a dynamic website
For many website creators, dynamic pages are the only way to go, and with good reason. Dynamic pages have the following benefits:
Starting a business and building a brand online requires constantly updated content. You need to stay up to date with trends, updates and changes within your business as well as within your industry. A dynamic website is the most effective way to do this.
With a dynamic website, a content change on one page can be automatically duplicated on other pages without having to change the design. This is especially relevant for websites with a large number of pages, as it makes the maintenance of a website more efficient.
One of the main advantages of updating a dynamic website is that it makes maintenance easier and faster. More users will have access to your database, so they can manage the content of the site without affecting the structure or design.
Dynamic pages also allow for scalability, since you can manage thousands of pages quickly and easily. Even if you are not planning a large website from day one, a dynamic website gives you the opportunity to grow when needed.
A better user experience
A dynamic website provides content that is tailored to the user's needs. This may mean displaying information on the page based on their location, or changing content to reflect their interests, intentions or past actions on the page.
Regardless, being able to customize what visitors see and interact with creates a better user experience. This personalization capability also makes it more likely that they will return to your site or take further action on it - which increases the potential for conversion.
Static pages can be interactive, but when it comes to functionality, dynamic pages are definitely leading. Dynamic pages have boundless functionality - limited only by the complexity of the logic and language needed to build them, and the instructions needed to deliver content.
Netflix is just one example of a very large, complex and yet sophisticated dynamic website, both in terms of functionality and user experience. It is able to deliver huge amounts of content to users based on their location and login information, and can offer session recommendations based on previous viewer history.
Disadvantages of a dynamic website
It requires more resources to create
Due to the extra steps required to organize and link the database to the right pages, a dynamic website can be more complicated to set up and run. It will take longer to go live, and it can also be more expensive.
There are exceptions to this: using a website builder like Wix not only allows you to build dynamic pages when you need them, but it allows you to do so without subscribing to a paid package. The Content Manager is free to use for all Wix users. So while one traditionally builds a dynamic website that used to require a larger budget, this is no longer the case, depending on where and how you choose to build your dynamic website.
Dynamic websites have more instructions to process than a static website has. They are also linked to a database or collection of content and continuously retrieve information from it to view it - which takes time to process and execute. This can affect the performance of a website, although many website creation tools are aware of this issue and make it their job to prioritize performance across all pages.
When building a dynamic website with a website builder like Wix, performance concerns are less likely. This is because everything necessary for optimizing your website's performance (such as automatic image optimization, a content delivery network, defense against DDOS attacks) is integrated into your pages, making your dynamic website as fast and user-friendly as a static one.
A hybrid approach: to combine static and dynamic sides
The reality is that many websites are complex - and more and more. We have an increasing demand for more functionality from websites, but at the same time we need them to perform well and load quickly. As a result, many website creators take a hybrid approach to website development. The debate over how to build a website, in this case, is not necessarily static versus dynamic, but when to implement static pages and when to use dynamic pages, all within the same website.
Let's take a look at what it means to create a hybrid website:
A hybrid website in action
You may have started with a static website, but as the need for greater functionality (or just a larger, more content-focused website) arises, you may see the benefit of using dynamic pages. With a hybrid model, you get a website that dynamically and automatically responds to users' needs.
Let's go back to our real estate site again. Imagine you are a property owner with a handful of apartments for rent in two cities. You do not have a lot of inventory to start, which means that your site will mainly be informative, with some basic promotional terms.
The pages of your site will contain:
An About page that describes your business and what you offer.
A site page or two, which describes the cities you have apartments in.
A handful of landing pages for the actual properties, where people can learn about each apartment and contact you directly for booking.
None of these sites will require extensive functionality, nor will real-time changes to information or content. In this scenario, a static site will work fine.
But over time, your business and real estate portfolio grow. Now, instead of a handful of properties in two cities, you have almost 100 apartments to rent in six or seven locations. You will now have a website with dynamic pages, which can do more in terms of the number of apartments you view and with the ability to update information for different users.
In this example, you need your website to update featured apartments according to those that are available at the exact time a user is looking for one. It should also display results according to parameters set by a user's search query on the site. Ideally, a user who searches your site for a Brooklyn studio for three months will get results that exactly match their request.
This is where your dynamic pages come in. With a dynamic website, new pages can be added to keep up with your new inventory and update content as additional search parameters are added.
Depending on your search calculations, you will have the potential for hundreds of dynamically created pages, all generated by the user automatically. In turn, the user gets content they specifically want, which makes it easier for them to shop.
Build a hybrid site with Wix
With a website builder like Wix, the use of Wix Content Manager allows you to simplify the creation and editing of content-heavy websites, and turn standard static pages into dynamic pages. These can then be managed and updated, all without having to touch the design. This in turn allows you to create a hybrid page that matches both content and user needs.
Freddy Fix borrowed from Wix