What exactly is a ‘dynamic website’?
A dynamic website is simply a website that allows interaction with users, and allows them to change or request different stuff. Simply put, it lets people ‘do stuff’.
I was in a Starbucks not too long back with my old lady when I heard these two bozo the clowns with their MacBook Airs and MochaMakkaLattes and their artificial swagger talking about his brand new ‘dynamic’ website and how amazing it was. Because we were standing on line, I was forced to eavesdrop into this meeting of the minds. Bozo was explaining to Cookie how he created his website in Photoshop, and was actually touting how easy it was to export HTML directly (YES! DIRECTLY) out of Photoshop and into Dreamweaver, where he was able to make all these images change and animate and all this when the mouse arrow hovered over a button. Cookie responded with the typical “oh wow, thats pretty awesome”.
I dismissed the seriousness of these guys immediately. Whatever that website was, I’m sure it stank like dogpile and would never be successful.
The makeup of a static website
On my way home, I tapped the brakes while the old lady took a sip of coffee just to get under her skin. She went into her typical response of telling me what a crappy driver I am and how I need to retake drivers ed. It was right then that I got to thinking a little deeper into the two guys at Starbucks conversation. Maybe there’s a lot of people out there that just don’t understand what the differences are between a ‘dynamic’ and ‘static’ websites.
In the old days of websites, most websites were ‘static’ in that they didn’t really do anything other than present a set amount of information to the web user. Static websites were generally built page-by-page, with links to other pages containing static content. These websites were essentially “brochure websites” in that they read just like reading a brochure. Fold One says something, Fold Two has more information, and Fold Three had a bunch of text telling you to contact them. This is no different than early websites.
This was the time when the guy in his pajamas working from his basement could build a website that was on par (and exceeding) the quality and performance of large companies. It didn’t take many resources to create a static, brochure website. You build a design in a graphics program, you recreate it using HTML, you get a web hosting account for $4.95 a month, and you are rolling. The world wouldn’t know any difference.
Enter the dynamic website
It didn’t take too long for all that to change. When the whole ‘Web 2.0′ thing broke loose on the world, websites would never be the same. Businesses realized that the web could be much better utilized than simply serving up digital pages of static information. They wanted people to order stuff and pay for it online… they wanted to people to see that they sold tshirts in blue, red, and purple, and even more insane–wanted people to be able to see the differences on the fly. Websites needed to ‘adapt’ to what the user was looking for and provide various forms of information on the fly.
Suddenly, the guy in his pajamas was outgunned by larger companies which had the funds to hire programmers and web developers who understood how to give users options, and how to allow a website to ‘dynamically’ display different pieces of information when the user chose to. If someone wanted to order 10 dohickeys at $9.99 each, their shopping cart would automatically show them the new price, automatically calculate the shipping, and send them an email after they placed their order. The days of the static website were kind of doomed.
Dynamic websites are simply web pages that allow a user to interact with a website, and change the information of the page in response to a request they made. You want to see the shirt in blue, you click the blue swatch and the main image changes to a blue shirt. Your looking at a map, and want to see where the road goes but its out of the ‘frame’, you click and drag the map to move it.
Comparison between static and dynamic website content
Static website map
Dynamic Website map
With this example, its easy to see how the static Google Map is forever fixed… its just an image of the map on the page. We can’t mess with it, we can’t ‘drive’ around the map, we can’t do shit. The dynamic Google map allows us all sorts of options–we can interact with the map by zooming in and out, moving it around, and even get driving directions. Way more fun, way more informative, and much more effective.
The map example is just one instance of dynamic vs. static web content. I’m sure that as you’ve viewed umpteen billion websites over the past few years, you’ve encountered countless examples of dynamic content. Some have probably been implemented seamlessly–where you never even considered the notion of “hey, this dynamic website is seamless and truly allows me to interact with this content.” Dynamic content is everywhere, and usually for good reason.
Now, thats not to say that every website needs to be dynamic. Not everyone needs a shopping cart, and not everyone needs complex website interaction. Static websites can still be remarkably informative, beautiful in design, and highly functional. However there are times when your visitors will require even a basic need to interact with the website in a way that a 3-fold brochure simply can’t offer.
We always encourage our potential clients to really dig down and discover exactly what information they want to present to their users, and find the balance between whats doable, whats affordable, and what the user requires.