Gone are the days when you could just create a pretty static website and almost forget about it. Today, almost every site requires interaction, dynamic elements on the page, and personalized content that changes with data pulled from a database. Whether people understand it or not, things get even more development-heavy with cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence. No matter how you look at it, there’s no going back to “simple web design.”
The History of Website Evolution From Static to Dynamic
Let’s look at how we moved from the most rudimentary static websites to the dynamic websites web developers in Toronto are capable of building today:
Where it all began – 1990
The internet, as we know it today, was first proposed by Tim Berners Lee in 1989. And, in 1991, the first live website was launched on this network.
However, a modern internet user might easily confuse it for a plain text file or Word Document. The website only consisted of black on white text with basic header formatting and links, what we call a basic hypertext document.
CERN still hosts a sample of this pioneering website:
These early web pages were completely static, meaning there was virtually no user interaction beyond clicking links to navigate to another page or website. There were also no animations, popups, styling, or any other dynamic capabilities.
First Steps – 1990 to 1995
Companies and organizations gradually started to adopt the internet and launch their websites. The first image was uploaded in 1992, and MTV created the first landing page in 1993 to promote shows.
The Debut of CSS – 1996 to 2000
Before the invention of CSS (cascading stylesheets), all styling was implemented in the HTML markup. CSS allowed for the separation of content and styling by putting the styling in separate CSS files. Various pages could reuse these files throughout the website for a consistent design, and it also meant you only had to make styling changes in one place.
HTML also went from version 1 to 4, allowing for many more elements to be created in markup. HTML5 would not be introduced for another 15 years.
Website Technologies Mature – 2000 to 2010
Many new technologies emerged during this time as the website became an increasingly regular part of life. In the early 2000s, website designs were still very basic and cheesy by today’s standards. However, Flash5, ActionScript, and other technologies meant websites were now more interactive than ever and gave rise to in-browser gaming.
CSS also underwent several changes and updates. CSS Sprites, Sass, CSS Grids, and Flexbox concepts became mainstream. This allowed designers to replace restrictive and more static table layouts.
Dynamic Becomes De Facto – 2010 to 2020
In 2010, the responsive syntax was introduced, which allowed website content to adjust to different screen sizes dynamically. The smartphone revolution and Windows 8 also kicked off the popularity of mobile and tablet app-like metro designs.
Bootstrap and Media Query massively enhanced CSS’ abilities to deliver responsive and dynamic designs. In 2014, WebGL was introduced, laying the groundwork for 3D representations in browsers.
HTML5, the markup language’s first significant update in 15 years, was released in 2014 and is still the latest version. It enhanced HTML’s support for multimedia, dynamic elements and brought it up to date with the latest technologies of the time.
Websites became increasingly varied in their design and functionality. Animations, personalized content, and interactive elements and pages all became standard features of most websites.
Many new CMSs and website builders would enter the market and grow exponentially with the burgeoning number of internet users demanding the ability to create their own dynamic, attractive, and interactive websites.
The Difference Between Static and Dynamic Websites
A static website follows the traditional view we have of what a website’s architecture looks like. Each website page consists of a physical HTML file containing the markup, styling, and any custom coding for that page. For example, you would have a physical “index.html” file for the Home page, an “about.html” file for the About page, etc.
Website pages might share CSS files with generic styling, but that’s about it. Each page is a self-contained file that links to other pages, or files, for navigating the website.
The content on pages themselves is also static, which means they generally don’t change based on user input or interactions. The content literally stands still.
On the other hand, dynamic websites use server-side technologies to build website pages on the fly. This involves server-side programming languages, such as PHP, combined with databases that store all the website content.
For example, a website usually has a standard footer with the same styling and information on each page. All the necessary information to recreate the footer can be stored in a database entry. Whenever a website loads, the data for the footer is retrieved from the database and displayed on the web page. Navigation menus, sidebars, contact information top bars, etc., are just some other examples.
With this method, entire pages can be generated from information stored and retrieved. The code to create a footer (or any other section) doesn’t need to exist on every website page file, physically.
Dynamic pages also use interactive elements and animations to engage with and respond to user actions.
Benefits and disadvantages of dynamic websites
- Simplifies website-wide changes and updates: You only have to make a single change in the code or styling of a website, and that change will be visible everywhere.
- Reuse content and data: Another benefit is that you can save designs, sections, or content as self-contained blocks. This content can be dynamically loaded anywhere else that you want to replicate or export to other websites.
- Flexible data handling: Apart from reusing data, it makes it easier to store, organize, and search. You can create entire libraries of reusable content blocks with categories and searchable names. This also makes backing up and restoring data so much easier.
- Quicker and easier updates: If we use WordPress, for example, its dynamic nature means you can update plugins and features with just a few clicks. The same goes for custom dynamic sites where you can edit the technology via packages.
- Customized and localized content: Leveraging dynamic on-page capabilities and data can customize website pages with different content for different users or different locations. For example, when using custom web development in Toronto to build your website, you can have it load with additional text to target customers in Toronto, Vancouver, or across the globe.
- More initial development work: Putting the technology and framework in place to build a dynamic website can initially be more time-consuming and require a higher level of technical skill. Developers will need intimate knowledge of one or more advanced programming languages and understand dynamic websites’ architecture.
- SEO and performance optimization: Once again, it might be more difficult initially to ensure dynamic websites are optimized for SEO in general, and local SEO such as web-development in Toronto. However, there are also more opportunities to optimize the content delivery and responsiveness for dynamic websites, especially those with a lot of media and content.
Benefits and disadvantages of static websites
- Simple, cheap, and quick to create: As long as the websites are straightforward, developing static sites is extremely easy because of a lack of advanced styling or functionality. However, it can become more challenging for larger sites without the ability to reuse and organize content efficiently.
- No storage concerns: Static websites typically don’t collect or grow with a visitor or consumer data. The files that make up the website tend to take up little space as well.
- Fast performance: Because there is no server-client communication, primary static sites can be super fast to load. However, static sites with a lot of content and media can be slower and harder to optimize.
- Indexing: With correct markup, static website files are extremely easy for search engines to index.
- Long-term maintenance and updates: Changes and updates to static websites need to be made on a page-by-page basis.
- Limited functionality: Static websites generally don’t support advanced functionality or makes it challenging to implement on a large scale—for example, an e-commerce website, business portal, etc.
- Unmemorable and unengaging: There is only so much interactivity and customization you can do with a static website. To be competitive online today, you need to capture user’s attention and make them want to come back for more.
The internet has come a long way in the last 30 years, and you can bet that it’s going to keep changing and evolving at lightning speed. While static websites might be great for a once-off or short-lived project with the most basic features and designs, it’s rarely adequate for long-term or ambitious projects. On the other hand, Dynamic technologies allow you to unlock your website’s full potential in terms of features, scalability, flexibility and providing better user experiences. Any short-term expense for developing a Toronto website will be made up for in the long run with simplified maintenance and the ability to evolve your website along with emerging technologies.