The terms static and dynamic describe both how the page of a website is “served” to the browser/client, and how the browser/client can interact with that page (my use of browser from here on will mean both the software and the human client).
Static websites are just that - static. They are delivered directly from the server on which they are stored to the browser that has accessed the site, and - just like an envelope of coupons received in the mail - once delivered, what you see is what you get. The reason there is no change in a static site is that the two main components of the site, the information and the design, are both hard-wired into the pages of the site and then stored on the server, waiting for the browser to call them up (see illustration at the bottom of this post).
The pros of a static site:
- quick to develop
- cheap to develop
- cheap to maintain as they require little storage space
The cons of a static site:
- even simple updates or alterations require a payed professional
- they can quickly become stagnant as little or none of the content changes
- their functionality(for both client and the owner of the site) is limited
Dynamic sites, on the other hand, provide the browser with a potentially variable experience each time they visit the site as the content can be easily changed by an administrator or owner of the site. This is because only the design elements of the site are hard-wired into the page while the content is stored separately. The actual coded pages of the site are like empty envelopes, and the content of these envelopes is drawn from a database that lies between the server and the browser. The beauty of this structure is that it is the owner of the site that manages the information in the database. Without getting too technical, this means that the content can be managed (rewritten, edited, etc.) easily by the owner or an administrator through a simple content management system - it can be as simple as signing into an email account, writing an email, and pressing “send”.
Pros of a dynamic site:
- updates and alterations can be done quickly and cheaply by the owner/administrator
- content is always relevant and fresh, providing users with a reason to return
- increased functionality - the possibilities of a dynamic site are far less limited than a static
- provides the owner with real-time direct communication with browsers and the possibility of client feedback
Cons of a dynamic website:
- they take more expertise and time to develop
- hosting can cost (depending upon site requirements) somewhat more than a static site
It is safe to assume that the vast majority of sites out there today are not static - the web has moved beyond simple “business-card” websites. E-commerce, information exchange frameworks, and even “simple” business sites demand dynamic capabilities, and fresh content is becoming paramount. Static pages are a good way to start if one’s budget is low and a simple presence on the web is desired, but relevant content and administrative control can never be undervalued.