RIP Static HTML Website
By Brad Stitgen
In the 15 plus years I have been building websites it’s interesting to see how far things have progressed. I, like a lot of people back then started by teaching themselves a little HTML and placing a personal website on the web. No need for a fancy web host, the space provided by my local Internet service provider was good enough. Back then, my website was pure HTML. No databases, server-side or client-side programming languages, or CSS to make things complicated. It was a time when table-based websites were the rule of the day.
As time went on I learned about ASP (Active Server Pages), which was Microsoft’s server-side programming language. Those were the days before ASP.net, which came a bit later. The great thing about ASP, was it allowed the creation of interactive forms as well as storing and retrieving information from Microsoft Access databases. I suppose you could consider these sites non-static, but the reality was they were really a static website with a few database queries to pull in a bit of tabular data. Nothing like the modern CMS sites we have today.
As time further went on, I made the jump over to the PHP server-side language. This also meant that I need to switch over from Microsoft’s IIS web server to the open-source Apache. I also switched over from Microsoft Access database to the more robust, and open-source, MySQL database.
Then about five years ago, the popularity of content management systems really started to take root in a big way. So I decided to build a CMS based website. After a little research, the one I settled on was WordPress. Back then purists would say that WordPress was not truly a CMS, but a blog. These days most of the naysayers agree that WordPress has earned its spot as a full-fledged CMS. While its roots might be as a blog, the constant upgrades to the core WordPress application, as well as the plethora of plug-ins and frameworks available make it suitable for most small to medium-sized business websites.
Now you might be asking yourself, with advancement in CMS’s is there a reason to still build static websites? In all honesty, I can see two scenarios where static websites still make sense. When first learning HTML it makes sense to start with a basic HTML only website. That way you’re not having to learn both HTML and how to set up a CMS website.
The second instance where creating a static HTML website might make sense would be for a simple one or two-page website. I say this with a couple of important caveats. First, the person who will be modifying the site in the future will need to be comfortable working in HTML. Additionally, they will also need to know how to work on the web server housing the site files.
Personally, I’ve gotten so used to building sites on WordPress that I don’t even bother creating single page websites without it. The problem with HTML websites is that they really are limiting for my clients. With all the great plug-ins and frameworks that are available which make creating site backups, adding interactive forms, and performing SEO much simpler — it simply does not make a lot of sense to build sites the old way using static HTML.
While creating static HTML website might be a good learning experience for someone new to web design and development, I would not recommend it for client work. Gone are the days when every minor change to a website requires somebody who understands HTML and web servers. Today’s websites should be built on CMSs with non-techie friendly admin areas. So in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, I’m saying… rest in peace dedicated HTML website. You served us well, but as inevitably happens in technology — it’s time to move on.