When it comes to websites, there’s two competing factions: the dynamic tribe or the static clan. Picking one to join might seem trivial but could have far reaching consequences, while there’s tools to move from the one to the other, there’s a lot of potential problems you might run into.
Common Misconception Explained
There’s a big misconception out there about dynamic websites, most people think the term dynamic refers to the content on the page and assume any website that customizes their pages to the visitor is therefor dynamic while in fact the term dynamic refers to how the website is hosted, it gets dynamically generated on the server, whether or not the content itself is static or dynamic is actually irrelevant, you could have static content dynamically generated or get dynamic content on a static site (using external APIs for example)
A dynamic website is a site where the pages get generated when the visitor requests them. Common programming languages for dynamic websites are PHP, Python, ASP, Ruby,…
Dynamic websites started gaining popularity in the beginning of this century when server processing speed increased and web frameworks started getting more powerful and easy to use.
Dynamic websites need to be hosted on servers where the required packages and framework is installed, one should always check if the programming language is supported on their host of choice. While a language like PHP will run almost everywhere, this is not as common for the others. A VPS solution like Vultr or Linode where you can rent a virtual machine and install your own packages of choice might provide a good alternative and even end up cheaper, but you’ll need some technical knowledge to get them up and running.
When you choose a static website, you generate static files and host them on a webserver of choice. The big advantage here is that any webhost can be used for storing a static website (even cloud storage), since no processing is required on the server. The visitor just requests a file and the server provides it, just like you would get any other file.
Pre-2000, static websites were the norm on the internet because of the reasons mentioned in the previous chapter but now they’re acutally making a comeback.
You might have been wondering “if the server is just hosting static files, how can dynamic content (that adapts to the visitor) be provided?”, that’s where Jamstack comes in.
SSGs are perfect for blogs or content sites because the content is mostly static, apart from maybe comments or forms.
For comments you could use an external site like Disqus and configure your static site to use it. Similarly, you could use a service like Jotform or Google Forms to add forms to your website. The added advantage is you don’t have to worry about spam since the external service takes care of that.
The biggest advantage is that, while it might take some more time to set up, once configured it’s almost maintenance free, write your article, push it directly to your host or use a GIT repo and that’s it. No plugins or CMS to update, no patches on the server and best of all, nothing for hackers to mess with.
So Should I Go Static Or Dynamic?
The answer, as so often is the case is, it depends.
Both static and dynamic websites are perfectly able to serve content but there’s some important advantages one has over the other.
Advantages of a Dynamic Website
- WordPress runs it, which is most popular and makes it easier to use and resell.
- Easier to set up, just get WordPress hosting and get started blogging.
Advantages of a Static Website
- Runs on any host including cloud storage, which is cheaper and sometimes even free.
- Generally faster because no processing needed on the server.
- Maintenance free (no updates!).
In the end, every use case is different and every user is different. Are you a techy person or want to use mostly external services, then it might be worth it to you to set up a static website and use a SSG. Are you a blogging newbie or plan on selling the website in the near future? Maybe you should just get WordPress and start a dynamic website. Also, when you’re getting started and you’re willing to learn, that cheap or free hosting might convince you to go static, you literally need just a domain to get started, no excuses!
Static, dynamic, it’s up to you. Think how skilled you are in tech stuff. Think where you’ll be in the future with this website, is it build to sell or do you plan to keep it forever?
Ultimately, the thing that matters most is the content. So don’t overthink it and get started if you haven’t already!