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Static sites vs dynamic sites: what’s the difference?

Gillian Mays
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

Websites can serve a number of purposes and come in all shapes and sizes with different levels of complexity. However, when it comes down to it, they generally fall under one of two categories: static sites or dynamic sites.

Static sites are having a resurgence in popularity, but dynamic sites offer several features that modern customers expect. What’s the difference between the two, and which one is best? In this article, we’ll explain more about each type of site, highlight the key differences and point out the situations where you might opt for one versus the other. We’ll also explain how a headless CMS can fit with either of them.

Section titled What is a static site? What is a static site?

A static site is a website that is delivered to the browser exactly as the files are stored on the server. These pre-built sites are made using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and the files are delivered to the browser from a CDN.

Static sites offer enhanced security since they are pre-built and have fewer back-end systems interactions. With less time spent fetching content, static sites also load fast, providing excellent performance, flexibility, and scalability.

Section titled What is a dynamic site? What is a dynamic site?

Dynamic sites process user requests at build time and then generate content for the page. This real-time feature means that dynamic sites are more interactive, providing different content based on user location, preferences, language, and other factors.

Dynamic sites offer increased personalization and interactivity compared to static sites; they are easier to maintain and can provide a better user experience by tailoring content to each user’s unique needs.

Section titled 5 key differences between static and dynamic sites 5 key differences between static and dynamic sites

Section titled 1. Changes in content 1. Changes in content

Content on a static site never changes after the site has been published. On the other hand, content changes depending on user behavior with dynamic sites. If you want a visitor to see something different based on their location or specific input, it can be changed accordingly.

Section titled 2. Content storage 2. Content storage

Content on a static site is stored on a server or a CDN and published instantly to the server. Dynamic site content is stored on a database or CMS until it is ready to be used.

Section titled 3. Updating content 3. Updating content

Updating content on a static site is more challenging as it needs to be done manually, page by page. Changes made to a page on a dynamic site can automatically be made across any number of changes.

Section titled 4. Setup and maintenance 4. Setup and maintenance

Static sites can be quickly set up and launched by someone with the right technical expertise but can be difficult to maintain as they grow in complexity. Dynamic sites initially take longer to set up but can be easily maintained and quickly updated.

Section titled 5. Speed 5. Speed

Since static sites are pre-built and come directly from the server, they have much faster loading times and are typically free of UX issues. On the other hand, dynamic sites can suffer from performance issues as there is more data that needs to be processed.

Section titled When to choose a static site When to choose a static site

There are certain situations where choosing a static site is better.

Section titled Website with only a few pages Website with only a few pages

If your website only has a few pages, then it’s better to opt for a static site. Your website can be launched quickly, and it won’t take much to maintain it, even if you need to edit each page individually. The gains in performance and security will far outweigh the need to add any complexity to a dynamic site.

A website with only an image, a navigation menu, and a few lines of text redirecting visitors to a social media account.

If you're running a simple website without too many bells and whistles, a static site might be a smart choice.

Section titled Landing pages & microsites Landing pages & microsites

Landing pages and microsites are supplemental websites that usually need to be launched quickly and contain very specific information that might not need frequent updates. Again, the speed of a static website makes it the perfect option for this type of content.

Section titled One-time promotions One-time promotions

If you own an eCommerce site, then static sites are the best option for doing one-time seasonal promotions on Black Friday and other short periods. Static sites can be easily launched and quickly taken down once the promotion is over.

Section titled When to choose a dynamic site When to choose a dynamic site

Other instances are the ideal scenario to opt for a dynamic site.

Section titled Complex website Complex website

If your website is complex with hundreds of pages, personalized content for different locations, and more, it’s better to choose a dynamic site. When sites are overly complex, they can be challenging for static sites to handle. With dynamic sites, the user experience can be enhanced and easily updated.

Section titled Ecommerce website Ecommerce website

Ecommerce websites are some of the best examples of what can be achieved with a dynamic site. Hundreds or even thousands of detailed product pages, personalized product recommendations, animations, advanced search, and more are some of the key features that can only be done well using a dynamic site.

The Zappos homepage with many complex elements such as a product menu, a return option, and the option to link Prime memberships.

Ecommerce sites tend to be more complex, and may thus be better as dynamic sites.

Section titled Sites that require frequent content updates Sites that require frequent content updates

Social media pages, news sites, and other sites with frequent content updates should be built dynamically. Dynamic sites are easier to maintain and update over time while maintaining a great omnichannel experience.

Section titled Storyblok: Headless CMS for static & dynamic sites Storyblok: Headless CMS for static & dynamic sites

Static sites and dynamic sites have different use cases, and businesses need to have both types of sites at their disposal. Whether you need to launch a microsite or landing page to help promote your latest product or need to build the latest eCommerce store, you’ll need the right technology support.

Storyblok is a headless CMS with flexibility for both static and dynamic sites. The perfect headless component for a static Jamstack site or a complex dynamic site with content that changes based on user behavior.

Dutch distiller and distributor of alcoholic beverages Bols needed to relaunch their eCommerce site to serve multiple markets. Originally a static site, it became difficult to scale to help them reach new targets. With the help of Story of AMS, Bols transitioned from a static side website to a super-dynamic server-side CMS eCommerce system made for the future.

Discover how Bols found a better site for their needs by reading the case study: How Story of AMS propelled Bols into a new eCommerce market.