Static site vs. content management system

If you’ve spoken to any design firms, they’ve probably asked you if you want a static site or if you’ll need content management. Already lost?

Static

OK, a static site is a web site that acts essentially as a brochure online. Some people may refer to these as “brochureware sites”. It is built with HTML, and in order to update the site, you either need to hire someone who knows HTML, or purchase a special editing tool (like Adobe’s Contribute).

There is nothing wrong with static sites. The web is full of them, and they are happy and doing well. They are also, generally speaking, faster and less expensive to develop.

CMS

A content management system uses a database to store all of your content – the content looks exactly the same in the browser. However, you cannot edit it in HTML; you need a special interface (accessed via a browser) in order to make changes. There are simple content management systems, and there are sophisticated ones. There are free (open source) applications, and there is quite expensive, proprietary software for which you need to maintain a license (and sometimes lease special hosting services). How do you decide what to use? This is sometimes a challenging question even for experienced web developers, and of course the answer is….

It all depends.

If all you are after is a site that is easy for you to maintain, you may want to consider our favorite – WordPress. WordPress is a marvelous, simple-to-use, open source content management system that is about as close to a static site as you can get – but with 100 times the flexibility. It requires minimal training for those who will maintain the site, its load time is fast, and the general support in the development community for the software is impressive.

On the other hand, if you have complex data requirements, documents that need to be indexed, information that needs to interrelate to other information in multiple ways throughout the site, you may need to look into a more sophisticated system. The most common open source systems nowadays are Joomla! and Drupal, both built from PHP. You can check www.cmswatch.com for news and updates on a wide variety of content management systems.

If you do have more complicated needs for your web site, we strongly recommend conducting an analysis and building a requirements document that serves as your blueprint for your web site project, prior to jumping onto any particular software bandwagon.

All photographs taken on location by A. E. Shroeder

TIP

Did you know that users will leave your page if content takes too long to download? Find out how fast your site loads