The Pros and Cons of Static Web Pages vs Content Management Systems

Whether starting a site from scratch or updating an existing site, one of the biggest decisions that needs making,  is just how much updating the client wishes to do. If the client requirements are for a site that can be updated or amended at will (and they are able to allocate sufficient resources to stay on top of it), a Content Management System could well be the answer. But it’s rarely that clear-cut.

Static html pages

How the web began. At the basic level, each page has a single file with the text and formatting, and instructions on what to do with any images or links. Created with desk top software such as Dreamweaver, static pages, until recently, have required a degree of technical knowledge to design and link together to create a site. A degree of client-editing is now possible with Adobe Contribute but, realistically, structural changes and mass text and picture updates are not to be taken on lightly without a decent grasp of the technical limitations and SEO requirements.

Content Management Systems

Available in a multitude of flavours from the very expensive to the free, Content Management Systems (CMS), on the face of it, sound like the answer to many prayers. But…

Open source software such as Joomla and Drupal is available at no cost but they do have very steep learning curves. Built on top of a database, CMS allows articles to be written and linked together without any html or web design knowledge. No pages actually exist. Each time a browser calls for a page, the CMS interogates the database and builds the page on-the-fly. Fantastic for editability, not so good (out-of-the-box) for important things like design and search engine optimisation (SEO).

At the time of writing, WordPress is better for blogging although the development path is tending towards CMS.

Static Site Pros & Cons

PROS

  • Easy to maintain
  • Much more design freedom
  • Relatively simple to get good search engine listing results
  • Nice, logical file names
  • Suits smaller sites where info remains relatively constant
  • Fast loading pages

CONS

  • Need to buy software to be able to update pages
  • Less flexible than CMS
  • Can be difficult to integrate add-ons
  • Less scalable than CMS

Dynamic Site Pros & Cons

PROS

  • “Free” – open source software with masses of plug-ins and extensions
  • Easy for non-techs to add material through a browser interface
  • Infrastructure can support massive sites
  • Relatively easy to alter the site structure (but not without impacting badly on your SEO unless you’re careful)

CONS

  • More restrictive in terms of design
  • Requires regular software updates that can be a pain to install
  • Generally less secure than a static site
  • Harder to secure the site against malicious attack
  • Harder to get good SEO results
  • Slower loading pages

WordPress Set Up

After a couple of hours of fiddling the NHA Design blog is up and running.

The WordPress “Famous 5-Minute_Install: (sic) worked a treat although I expect previous experience of wrestling with Joomla installations and creating databases helped.

Having run through assorted options and created a few starter categories we’ve got a framework in place but the basic theme is too impersonal.

nha_blog-design_14

So, as a first step, I’ve added the fish from our main site.

Again, previous Joomla experience of templates is a big advantage here because it gave me a clue where to look. Having checked the CSS (not very exciting reading at the best of times) to identify the file used by the default template as a header it’s a case of creating a replacement.

After a few minutes tweaking in Illustrator and Photoshop turning a 2-d image into a (sort of) 3-d one, we have a replacement header, complete with fish. Using exactly the same file name as the original and replacing it in the same folder means no other modifications are necessary. Upload it to the server, refresh the page and we’re done.

It’ll need some more tweaking later but at least we have a mildly personalised site with similar branding to the main site.