A static website is a type of website design. In this article, we’ll explain what is meant by a static website, why might it be useful for your website design and the limitations of this kind of build.
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What is a static website?
A static website is a type of website that is delivered to the user exactly as stored, in contrast to dynamic websites which are generated by a web application.
Are static websites still used?
Yes, static websites are very much in use today, and in fact, their use is growing due to several modern development and deployment practices.
While they might seem like a throwback to the early days of web design, they still continue to offer several significant benefits that make them an attractive option for certain types of projects.
What are the advantages of a static website design?
Depending on your website requirements, a static website design might just be the best option for you. Check out the advantages of this kind of build below.
One of the biggest advantages of this build is its speed. Since they don’t require any server-side processing or database queries, they load very quickly compared to dynamic websites.
Another advantage of static websites is security. Since there is no database or dynamic data involved, the attack surface for hackers is much smaller. Without a database or server-side processing, there are fewer vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit.
Cheaper to host
Static websites also tend to be much simpler to develop and host than dynamic websites since they can be deployed on any server that can serve static files. Some services like GitHub Pages and Netlify even offer ways to host static websites for free, making it an ideal option if you need to keep costs down.
Limitations of a static website
While static websites do have several advantages, they also come with certain limitations in website design and development.
Lack of dynamic content
Static websites are not suitable for websites that require dynamic content such as user profiles, real-time data, or personalized content based on user behaviour or inputs.
Limited user interaction
Features such as commenting, liking, sharing, or submitting a form usually require server-side processing and are challenging to implement on static websites. Although third-party services can provide some of these features, they may not be as flexible or as well-integrated as a custom solution on a dynamic website.
Static sites do not have databases. This means they can’t handle data-driven operations like searches, sorting, and filtering the same way a dynamic site can.
Manual updates required
Each page has its own HTML file. This means that making site-wide changes, like modifying the header or footer, can require manually updating every individual page, unless a static site generator is used.
Limited Scalability for Large Sites
If you’re planning to have hundreds or thousands of pages, managing a static site can become complex. Dynamic sites, with their database-driven content, can be more suitable for these scenarios.
No CMS (Content Management System) Out of the Box
Unlike dynamic website builders such as WordPress, static sites don’t have an integrated system for content management out of the box. While headless CMS options exist for static sites, they can require more technical knowledge to set up and use.
Static sites have significant limitations when it comes to e-commerce functionality. They lack the ability to manage products, handle a shopping cart, or process transactions in the way a dynamic e-commerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce can.
Remember, that while these limitations exist, many can be mitigated by modern development practices, static site generators, and third-party tools and services.
Static Website Generator
Static website generators allow you to create a website using text files, which are then converted into a series of HTML pages. Here are some popular static site generators:
Jekyll is one of the most popular static site generators. It’s built with Ruby and integrates into GitHub Pages for free hosting. It uses the Liquid templating language, and it’s the engine behind GitHub Pages.
Known for its speed, Hugo is a static site generator written in Go. It supports TOML, YAML, and JSON metadata across a variety of content types.
Gatsby is a React-based, GraphQL-powered static site generator. It brings together the best components of React, webpack, react-router, GraphQL, and other front-end tools.
Although not traditionally known as a static site generator, Next.js, a React framework, has static generation features along with server-side rendering. It’s highly scalable and can create both static websites and dynamic server-side rendered pages.
A fast, simple, and powerful blog framework powered by Node.js. Hexo uses a templating language called EJS and it’s highly configurable.
A Vue-powered static site generator with a Vue-driven theming system. It’s optimal for technical documentation or blog sites.
A static site generator that uses Python. It supports Jinja2 templates and is a popular choice among Python developers.
Remember, choosing a static site generator often depends on your project requirements and the languages or frameworks you’re comfortable working with.
Who would benefit from a static website?
Static websites are a perfect fit for blogs, documentation sites, portfolios, landing pages, and company websites that don’t require user input or authentication.
If you end up needing some dynamic features though, modern static site generators like Next.js, Gatsby, or Hugo can be integrated with serverless functions and third-party APIs to add commenting, form submissions, dynamic searching, and more.