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, you might wonder the big difference between these two approaches. They both make websites, but there is a world of difference in how you get to the 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. It’s called a static website because 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? 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 free offers, sign up for newsletters and build your list. Just about anything you desire, you can do with a static HTML website.
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A Content Management System (CMS) is much more user-friendly because you do not need to know any code 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 your website’s appearance or functionality 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 because they were originally used for blogging and not much else. In recent years CMS has become so much more and is 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 most significant 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 excellent platforms, and for the most part, one is as easy to use as the other. The most significant 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 in a minute) and SEO, and there are a kazillion themes available for WordPress, too, thus making it a trendy 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 years. 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 recent 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 set up (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, HTML is a significant benefit because you have total control over the website’s appearance. You can change the visuals of a WordPress or Joomla site, but you are limited by the number of choices or flexibility available with the theme or template you are using. If you know CSS, a relatively simple language, you can easily change your HTML website looks.
Static HTML: Cons – The cons of fixed HTML deal with its lack of interactivity and its 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 with a shopping cart. A user comes to your website to 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 recent article) or page, you will need to create it first and then upload the HTML file 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 your website’s pages. This is huge for websites 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 with little to no coding 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 want a blog and a place for people to leave comments, then a free piece will probably do the trick. However, if you want a more professional or storefront to look at with 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 to 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 can add to your SEO and keep your content current and search engine friendly. There are plenty of useful plugins you can use that can take your SEO to astronomical levels.
Speaking of plugins, thousands of plugins 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 set up. 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 too many plugins installed on the site. Only use what is necessary. Another thing to consider is the themes. Some are clearly better than others. Theme developers put a lot of time and thought into the design. Still, some developers are really thinking of the end-user more than others and recognize that we want lots of customization freedom. More importantly, not all of us have programming skills, making them 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 to be. All I’m saying is to read the reviews and do your homework before investing in a premium theme. Also, a well-designed piece 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 hosts out there. There are other useful 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 with 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, it’s your choice as to whichever 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. Afterward, you’ll need to upload and install your theme. Once that is complete and you received confirmation 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.
There are two main approaches to making a website. Static HTML is suitable for small sites and simple pages, or if you’re an avid programmer even bigger project is OK. WordPress is good for pages that you will constantly update or for new ones added on the fly and for the guy whose programming skills are minimal or non-existent. Both HTML or WordPress are promising approaches, but WordPress is often considered the more desirable alternative because there is so much you can do with your website when compared to an HTML and, more importantly, no programming skills required. However, consider your needs, and you should figure out which one will work best for you.