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Static vs. dynamic websites: the key differences and which to use

static vs dynamic websites

When it comes to planning how to make a website, knowing which type of website works best for you, and specifically for the functionality of your site may affect how you choose to build it. Most websites can be defined as static vs dynamic websites, with increasing numbers being termed hybrids—meaning they are made up of a mixture of static and dynamic web pages.

In the context of website creation, static and dynamic refers to the ways in which websites deliver and display content. The key difference between static websites vs dynamic websites is that static websites have stable content, where every user sees the exact same thing on each individual page (like a privacy policy), whereas dynamic websites pull content on the fly, allowing its content to change with the user.

In this article, we’re going to make sense of the whole static vs. dynamic debate. In the process, we’ll review important factors to consider when deciding which one is right for you:

Static vs. dynamic websites

The underlying mechanisms and capabilities of static and dynamic websites differ significantly, impacting factors such as interactivity, customization, scalability and maintenance requirements.

Static websites consist of fixed content stored on the server and delivered to the user without any server-side processing. These websites are simple and easy to host but lack interactivity and require manual updates. Dynamic websites, on the other hand, generate content on the fly using server-side processing and databases. They offer interactivity, personalized content and dynamic features but are more complex to develop and maintain.

What is a static website?

A static website is made up of web pages created using HTML, CSS and Javascript (all examples of web development languages). Each page on a static website is stored as a single HTML file, which is delivered directly from the server to the web page exactly as is. This content essentially becomes a part of the design on your page, and won’t change unless the original HTML file is edited at a code level.

Changes to a static website can be done manually, and will only be made page by page, HTML file by HTML file. For example, edits made to the HTML file of a homepage will only be reflected on the homepage. This is true even for elements that are identical across the whole site, such as the footer. If you’re using a website builder, changes to static pages will be made automatically every time you use the website editor.

what is a static website

One of the most characteristic aspects of a static site is that every user receives and views the exact same content. Because of this, static websites work best for sites with fewer pages that don’t require frequent updates or changes.

A good candidate for a static site is a resume website. This is a type of site with set content for each page and doesn't require many changes to individual pages, or real-time updates based on user behavior. Other examples of common static website types include personal websites, nonprofit websites and purely informative websites (good examples of these include one-page or landing page sites).

Advantages of a static website

Static sites are back—well, in some situations—and we’re going to go over several main reasons for this comeback.

Faster page loading speed

The makeup of a static page prioritizes load speed, resulting in a better browsing experience. Because the content on this type of site is pre-written and delivered directly from the server, caching is easier and the content is less likely to load with delays or UX issues, such as broken images.

In general, static websites require less server power, and with no database or client-server infrastructure to run through, they’re naturally faster. Since page load speed is a key part of the way Google assesses a website's performance (and it seems to be having a more significant impact on SEO and ranking performance, too) this ability should not be underestimated.

Quick creation

When you are thinking about how long it takes to build a website and time is an issue, a static website is easier to get live quicker. Static websites are faster to create and publish since they are less complex and don’t need to be connected to databases of organized content. This is even more true if built on a WYSIWYG platform.

All that limits the time to go live with a static site is how creative you want to be with each page design. This doesn’t mean making a dynamic alternative will be a slow process, but static pages tend to be simpler and consequently faster to deploy.

Potential for enhanced security

In theory, static website pages are potentially more difficult to hack. This is because there are fewer points to attack them from. We’ll explain:

Static pages don’t connect with a database or use external extensions and plugins—all of which can be common entry points for attacks. In comparison, dynamic sites are not inherently unsafe, but potential attackers theoretically pose less risk with a static website.

How relevant this is depends entirely on how you choose to build your site. For example, a webpage or website created on a website builder like Wix is protected by a host of protective measures whether it’s static or dynamic. From DDoS protection and SQL certificates to extra layers of website security provided by TLS 1.2, you won’t need to worry about security.

Disadvantages of a static website

Having been through the benefits of a static site, we are now going to cover some of the disadvantages below.

Limited scalability

One of the largest disadvantages of a static website only comes into play with larger, content-heavy designs. While it’s possible to build hundreds of pages with a static website, it will always be a slow and long process. This is less relevant when creating a personal website though.

Every page on a static website has to be built as a separate entity. For a site with multiple pages, you would need to create each page individually.

Less efficient management

Static websites may be quicker to create, but they can be more time-consuming to manage. Edits to a static website need to be made 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, near impossible—task.

What is a dynamic website?

Built using server-side language and technology, dynamic websites allow for the content of each page to be delivered and displayed dynamically, or on-the-fly, according to user behavior or from user-generated content.

With a dynamic website, all of your data and content are organized in a database or backend content management system (CMS), which connects to your website pages. The way this information is arranged and connected to your site’s design controls how and when its content is revealed on a page.

What does all of this mean? Well, dynamic content gives you the ability to customize and personalize the website experience, and what is displayed, for a specific user. It also allows you to make changes to many pages at the same time, since modifications made to one dynamic page can be automatically made across thousands.

For example, dynamic websites enable you to choose which information is displayed to a user based on their location. You can also deliver content to users based on their current or past actions on your site (thanks to cookies), which essentially means each visitor sees a different view of the content on a page. A multilingual website is a great example of when creating a dynamic website might be relevant.

Other examples of well-known dynamic websites include:

  1. Instagram: as a social media site, dependent on user-generated content, Instagram relies on a dynamic website.

  2. CNN: media outlets use dynamic websites to update their content, either in response to breaking news or as stories age.

  3. Disney Plus: as a large streaming site, this dynamic entertainment website's dynamic nature allows its content to be chosen and displayed according to a user's location, subscription and preferences.

what is a dynamic website

Generally, dynamic websites are those which are content heavy and user-driven. Let’s say the main purpose of your website is to act as a real estate listing website. You’ll need to generate hundreds of pages to list hundreds of available properties. In order to improve the functionality of your site and accommodate a user’s intent, the content on these pages will need to reflect the real-time availability of properties. Using dynamic pages will be the most efficient way to display these changes on your site.

Event websites, eCommerce websites, online forums, membership websites, portfolio websites and blogs are some other types of websites that benefit from being dynamic.

Advantages of a dynamic website

For many website creators dynamic pages are the only way to go, and for good reason. Dynamic pages have the following advantages:

Easily updated

Starting a business and building a brand online requires continually updated content. You need to stay current 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 needing to alter the design. This is particularly relevant to sites with a large number of pages since it makes maintaining a website more efficient.

One of the main advantages in terms of updating a dynamic website is that it makes maintenance easier and faster. Multiple users will have access to your database, allowing them to manage the content on the site without the ability to touch the structure or design.

Dynamic pages also allow for scalability, since you can manage thousands of pages quickly and easily. Even if you don’t plan for a large website from day one, a dynamic website gives you the option to grow when it becomes necessary.

A better user experience

A dynamic website provides content that’s tailored to the needs of the user. This might mean displaying information on the page based on their location or changing content to reflect their interests, intent or past actions on the page.

Whatever the case, being able to customize what visitors see and interact with creates a better user experience. This capacity for personalization also makes it more likely they’ll return to your site or take further action on it—increasing the potential for conversion.

Greater functionality

Static pages can be interactive, but when it comes to functionality, dynamic pages definitely lead the way. 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’s able to deliver huge amounts of content to users based on their location and login credentials and can offer watch recommendations based on past viewing history.

Disadvantages of a dynamic website

It takes more resources to create

Because of the extra steps needed to organize and connect your database to the right pages, a dynamic website can be more complicated to set up and get running. it will take more time to go live and can be more costly, too.

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 also allows you to do so without subscribing to a paid package. The CMS (Content Management System) is free to use for all Wix users. So while traditionally building a dynamic website used to require a larger budget, this is no longer the case, depending on where and how you choose to build your dynamic site.

Looking to get started with the CMS? Take a look at our online course to help you do just that.

Performance issues

Dynamic websites have more instructions to process than static websites do. They are also connected to a database or content collection and continually pull information from that in order to display it—which takes time to process and execute. This can impact the performance of a site, although many website creation tools are aware of this issue and make it their mission to prioritize performance across all pages.

When building a dynamic website with a website builder such as Wix, concerns about performance are less likely. This is because everything necessary for website performance optimization (for example, automatic image optimization, a Content Delivery Network and defense against DDOS attacks) is integrated into your pages, making your dynamic website as fast and user-friendly as a static one.

differences between a static vs dynamic website

A hybrid approach: combining static and dynamic pages

The reality is that many websites are complex—and becoming more so all the time. We have an increasing demand for more functionality from websites, but at the same time, we need them to perform well and load fast. As a result, many website creators are taking a hybrid approach to developing a website. The debate surrounding website building, in this case, is not necessarily static vs. dynamic, but when to implement static pages and when you should use dynamic pages, all within the same website.

Let’s have a look at what creating a hybrid website entails:

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 might see the benefit of using dynamic pages. With a hybrid model, you’ll get a site that dynamically and automatically responds to your users' needs.

Let’s go back to our real estate website again. Imagine you're a property owner with a handful of apartments to rent in two cities. You don’t have a lot of inventory to start, which means your website will be mainly an informative one, with some basic calls-to-action.

Your site’s pages would include:

  • An About page describing your company and what you offer.

  • A location page or two, detailing 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 bookings.

None of these pages will require extensive functionality or real-time changes to information or content. In this scenario, a static website would work great.

But over time, your business and property portfolio grows. Now, instead of a handful of properties across two cities, you have almost 100 apartments to rent in six or seven locations. You’ll now want a website with dynamic pages, capable of doing more in terms of the number of apartments you display and with the ability to update information for different users.

In this example, you’ll need your site to update featured apartments according to those available at the precise time a user is looking for one. It should also display results according to parameters set by a user’s search request within the website. Ideally, a user who searches your site for a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, for three months, will be shown results that exactly match their request.

These are where your dynamic pages come in. With a dynamic website, new pages can be added to keep pace with your new inventory and update content as extra search parameters are added.

Depending on your search metrics, you’ll have the potential for hundreds of dynamically created pages, all of them generated by the user automatically. In turn, the user gets content they specifically want, making it easier for them to take action.

Building a hybrid site with Wix

With a website builder like Wix, using the Wix Content Manager allows you to simplify the creation and editing of content-heavy sites, and turn default 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 site that matches both your content and user needs. You can learn more about how to plan the website you need.

Using free website templates can help you build exactly the kind of site you need.

Tip: Need help finding a catchy name for your site's domain? Use a website name generator for inspiration and ideas.

Looking to take your website to the next level? Check out Wix Studio or explore the difference between Wix vs. Wix Studio.

Static vs. dynamic websites FAQ

What does static vs. dynamic mean?

In the context of website creation, static means something that doesn't change, while dynamic signals something that does. A static webpage remains the same or fixed, in terms of the content it displays. A dynamic webpage is the opposite, its content changes according to the location of the user, or based on actions a user has made on the page before.

What are three examples of static websites?

How do you know if a website is static or dynamic?

What is better, a static or dynamic website?

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