To understand the difference between static and dynamic websites, it is best to begin at the beginning – with how websites are delivered to your web browser.
When you visit a website, your web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) sends a request to the server that stores all of the information for the site. The server, in response, sends the information – in code – back to the web browser. Then the web browser uses all of the information contained within the code to display the website on your computer or smart phone screen as intended by the developer.
What is a Static Website?
Sometimes called a flat or stationary site, a static website is displayed exactly as it is stored in a server. It relies on fixed content, which is ready and waiting on the server for delivery to your web browser upon request. Static web pages return the exact same information for any user. No recent search history, no “Welcome, John Doe!” in the top right corner of the screen, no shopping carts, etc.
What is a Dynamic Website?
Also known as a database driven site, content for a dynamic website is stored on a database to which the server refers before returning the webpage to the user. In this case, the browser tells the server what data is needed, the server finds that data in a database, loads it into a template, and THEN sends the information back to the browser.
In other words, dynamic sites generate web pages in real time based on the data input by the user. This means that different content can be generated at different times of day, based on the browser being used, where the user is located, information contained in their user profile, and so on.
Additionally, changes to the information contained within the database – prices, inventory, etc. – change the information served to users, in real time.
The Difference Between Static and Dynamic Websites
The difference between a static website and a dynamic website can be easier to grasp if you understand the pros and cons of working with each.
- Easy to create and build. Static websites can be created with HTML code and nothing else.
- Less expensive. Static sites are less expensive to build because they require less work. They are less expensive to host because they take up less space on a server.
- Faster load times. Because they are ready made and literally waiting in the server to be sent to a browser, static sites load much faster than dynamic sites.
- SEO is simpler. Since the pages already exist, search engines can crawl static web pages very effectively. This makes accomplishing SEO basics a little bit easier.
- Easy to personalize for different users. Dynamic websites allow users to login and see information relevant to them and their accounts.
- Updating and scaling are easier. Frequent updates and website growth are much easier on dynamic sites since the code required to make changes is already present. It simply needs to be modified instead of created from scratch.
- Simpler to meet the needs of the end user. Websites which return information specific to each user make it easier to meet their needs and expectations.
- Harder to change. For the reason that dynamic websites are easier to update, static websites require more manual work to achieve similar changes.
- Difficult to grow. Similarly, a static website can be more time consuming to scale since every change requires manual work, and often a total rewriting of the code involved.
- Maintaining more than a few static pages can be impractical. If there are more than a few pages involved, maintaining them over time can be quite a challenge.
- Updates require development expertise. Even simple changes cannot be easily managed by the business. Instead, they must be completed by a web developer who understands the coding languages in use.
- Much more difficult to build. What makes a website dynamic also means more work at the outset because additional coding is required for server-side processing. Often databases must be built from scratch, too.
- Expensive. This complexity makes dynamic websites more expensive to build and host.
Static vs. Dynamic Websites – Which Should You Choose?
Every business needs a website, and choosing whether to build a static website vs. dynamic website is a relatively easy decision these days. Most of today’s websites are 100% dynamic, contain a combination of static and dynamic pages, or include at least a few dynamic elements. This means that nearly every website requires some amount of database-driven processing. Even if you don’t have the ability to build a fully dynamic site right away, opting for a site with some dynamic options will make growing and scaling your site much simpler in the future.
Dynamic Websites by Hungry Media
Hungry Media has years of experience building dynamic, database driven sites which help companies take their businesses to the next level. Whether you sell luxury vacations, are a starting a non-profit, or anything in between, we’ve got you! Our unique approach uncovers your needs not just for today, but for the long term. This allows us to build a website that grows with you, over time. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you create the website of your dreams.
contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer