There are basically two popular approaches to take when you decide to build a website. You can go to a static HTML website or a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla. If you are new to building and managing websites, then you might wonder what the big difference is between these two approaches. They both make websites, but there is a world of difference on how you get to the end result. Read on to find out the difference between them, and which one is really the best for you.
A static HTML website is one that you build with HTML and CSS. The reason it’s called a static website is that nothing can change about the website or at least not unless you go back and change the code. Up until recent years, this was really the only way to make a website. There is no dynamic content, nor is there any real user interaction. The only thing you get is what you enter into the HTML. What does that mean? Simply put, once you are done with the design and install the website it will only do what you asked it to. You can make beautiful sites that allow the users to read content, purchase products, access to free offers, sign up for newsletters and build your list. Just about anything you desire you can do with a static HTML website.
A Content Management System (CMS) is much more user-friendly in the sense that you do not need to know any code in order to use it. CMS is more of a “drag and drop” or “point and click” type system. You log in to the “admin” portion of the website and make the changes you desire and update. The changes you make to the appearance or functionality of your website take effect immediately after you save and update. One of the other nice things about CMS is the variety of themes available, but we’ll talk about that later.
Most CMS sites are referred to as Blog sites, primarily due to the fact they were originally used for blogging and not much else. In recent years CMS has become so much more and are now one of the most widely used programs for building a website today. Built using PHP, CMS sites have a database attached to save all of the core and dynamic content. So once again, the biggest differences between CMS and static HTML are dynamic content (change it on the fly) and no coding required.
WordPress or Joomla?
This is really a matter of choice. Both are very good platforms and for the most part one is as easy to use as the other. The biggest difference between them is this: WordPress has been around since 2003 and is very popular. As a result, they get a huge amount of support from other programmers when it comes to Plugins (we’ll talk about this is a minute) and SEO, and there are a kazillion themes available for WordPress too, thus making it a very popular choice for both newbies and pros alike. Joomla has not been around as long (2005) but has become very popular in its own right over the yeas. It is second only to WordPress and with over 30 million downloads and now with WordPress integration, it’s no slouch. Both allow users to leave comments to posts and or pages, stream new content from sources like social media or news sites and you can also quickly add new posts to your blog without having to worry about modifying your navigation bar (its automatic) or structuring your pages, thanks to built-in templates.
Pros and Cons
Static HTML: Pros – A static HTML website is easy to setup (especially if you know code). You have complete control of the layout, look and feel. HTML websites also tend to load faster because they usually have fewer files and data to download. As stated earlier, a big benefit of HTML is that you have total control over the website’s appearance. You can change the visuals of a WordPress or Joomla site too, but you are limited by the amount of choices or flexibility available with the theme or template you are using. If you know CSS, which is a fairly simple language, then you can easily change the way your HTML website looks.
Static HTML: Cons – The cons of static HTML deal with its lack of interactivity and their complex structure with larger websites. An HTML page has absolutely no interactivity, and it only includes what you code. For example, if you code a Web page with an article, then that’s all you will get. There will be nothing else on the page except for that article. There will be no user content, no dynamic content that generates while you are away and the website will remain static. On the other hand, if you program it to include a database so that users can access information I guess in a sense you could call that a limited form of interactivity. The same holds true with a shopping cart. A user comes to your website purchase a product or service you offer; so in the same sense they can interact with your website in a limited form.
If you want to make changes to your site like adding a new post (write a new article) or page you will need to create it first and then upload the HTML file it to your server and then change the navigation bar (menu) before it is visible to the user. This takes up a lot of time, especially if you add one or more pages a day. Another consideration is: if you don’t have a good CSS structure in place then changing parts of your website can be very cumbersome. For example, you want to change the background color for all of your pages on your site. If you have the background color programmed with CSS and have it called out in the HTML for all of the pages, then changing the color in the CSS will change the color on all of the pages on your website. This is huge for website that might have 100 pages or more, otherwise you’ll need to change all 100 pages individually. As you can see, static HTML sites are easy for the guy who understands the code requirements, but not so for that person little to no code knowledge. Finally, SEO! You will need to code all of the SEO into your static website yourself. Considering SEO is a somewhat dynamic process, you will find yourself always having to go back and tweak or change your site to keep it current.
Let’s take a minute to talk about themes. Themes or templates allow you to change the look or feel of your website literally in minutes. If you want a particular niche site, for example, a medical looking feel or a golfing theme there are plenty to choose from. Some are free and others you’ll need to purchase, usually referred to as Premium themes. If you just want a blog and a place for people to leave comments, then a free theme will probably do the trick. However, if you want a more professional or storefront to look with maybe a shopping cart or a data feed for an Amazon affiliate, then a premium theme is the way to go. I prefer premium themes because they generally allow for more flexibility and customization.
SEO is another big plus for WordPress because a lot of it is already built into the program. when you install WordPress on your server for the first time you immediately need to go the admin section and complete a setup process located in the settings> general settings area. In there you will fill in a couple of fields that are the beginnings of the SEO process. Afterward, every time you create a page or post you are able to add to your SEO and keep all of your content current and search engine friendly. There are plenty of good plugins you can use that can take your SEO to astronomical levels.
Speaking of plugins, there are thousands of plugins that add unique and interesting effects to your WordPress website. There are so many choices of plugins that it will be impractical to try and mention them here, but to give you a taste: there are plugins for advertising, SEO, article submission, spam protection, adding captchas, creating contact forms, email campaigns and even ones that will automatically backup your website according to a schedule you setup. The list of plugins goes on forever.
WordPress Cons – One of the problems with WordPress can be too many plugins. I’ve seen websites that take too long to load and it was caused by having way to many plugins installed on the site. Only use what is necessary. Another thing to consider are the themes. Some are clearly better than others. Theme developers put a lot of time and thought into the design, but some developers are really thinking of the end-user more than others and recognize that we want lots of customization freedom and more importantly, not all of us have programming skills so make it simple to understand and use. All of them allow for some customization, but others will give you more control and the ability to make your website look the way you really want it be. All I’m saying is to read the reviews and do your homework before investing in a premium theme. Also, a well designed theme will look clean and load quickly. There are thousands of themes to choose from, so you are sure to find something that you like.
Installing your WordPress Website
Installing a WordPress site with most hosts takes only a few minutes. I found GoDaddy to be one of the best web host out there. There is other good web hosting companies and I’ve used several of them and would not hesitate to recommend them, but GoDaddy (in my opinion) has superior customer service. I cannot say enough about a company that has a phone number you can call and an actual customer service person (a real human being) will answer and be there whenever you need them. However, Afterward your choice as to which ever company you decide to use and are more comfortable with.
Now back to installing! Just log in to your web host and follow their instructions for installing WordPress. Afterwards, you’ll need to upload and install your theme. Once that is complete and you received conformation from the server that the website is active, all that is left is to start adding content and customizing your new website and make it look the way you desire.
WebriQ CMS - best of both worlds. A Static Site building approach combined with a Git-based CMS system to continuously update your content
With a Git-based CMS you can publish content every time you push changes to Git, allowing for a seamless development workflow. This approach is a bit difficult to scale with content that you want to publish across different platforms, but it will allow for you to have a purely static website. Since it runs on Git, you won’t have a problem finding an open source CMS to work with.
With an API-driven CMS, you’re creating content that will be strictly delivered via APIs. Although you won’t be able to keep track of content changes through Git, you’ll be able to scale your content through flexible APIs. But since you are working on a platform that hosts these APIs (server bandwidth ain’t cheap) these tend to not be open-sourced and rather pricey, but some offer freemium pricing models.