Static vs. dynamic websites: Building the best website for your users

Static and dynamic websites each have their own advantages. This post explains the practical differences for developers and helps you choose which to use.
April 2, 2024


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Static websites that load personalized content from APIs offer many clear advantages over traditional dynamic websites for both developers and users for many use cases. 

This article explores the difference between static vs. dynamic websites, the pros and cons of each, which you should choose depending on what you are building, and provides resources for building fast, scalable websites and frontends.

What is the difference between static and dynamic websites?

”Static” and dynamic do not refer to the behavior of the content itself when it reaches your users — both allow for rich website experiences with personalization, animation, and interactivity. In this context, static” and dynamicrefer to how the page is initially delivered from the server to the user's web browser. Whether a website is delivered from static hosting or is dynamically generated affects how you develop them, and can affect the end user experience.

What is a static website?

In a static website, the HTML and JavaScript code for each web page already exists on the server. Every user accessing a statically hosted website gets the same initial copy of that page's assets. Simple static websites that don’t load content will show the same page to each user, while modern, interactive statically hosted websites can load additional data and change their appearance content on the client-side, from the user's browser.

This personalized content is loaded from APIs based on the user's interactions (like logging in to provide personalization, or loading more blog posts or images as they scroll). As page content is retrieved by the user's web browser after the page has been downloaded, no server-side processing is required to create the page — hence it being called “static.”

What is a dynamic website?

Dynamic websites are generated on the server based on the request from the user's web browser and include all of the required data, sourced from databases and external services, before the page is generated for each request and sent to the user. Each user gets a different page from the server, already containing all of the content that it will show.

Once the user's web browser downloads the page, no more data needs to be retrieved, as everything was assembled on the server and then delivered to the web browser. Dynamic web pages require server-side processing (usually PHP, Node.js, or Python environments) to dynamically build the page content before delivering it.

Static web pages retrieve content after the user has loaded the page. Dynamic pages generate all content on the server prior to sending the page to the user.

If this “static” and “dynamic” terminology seems backwards or confusing, you’re not alone. One way to think about it is to see it from the server side: the web server does no work to build static pages before delivering them, but must assemble data dynamically prior to sending it for a dynamic page. On the client side, both can provide dynamic/interactive user experiences, but the terminology in this space refers only to what the server is doing to serve the page.

Advantages and disadvantages of static vs. dynamic websites

Depending on how you've built your site, the difference between a static and dynamic website may not be noticeable to end users — but it does affect the way you code your site and the infrastructure required to deliver it.


Static websites

Dynamic websites

Content retrieval

All users receive the same page until additional content has loaded, reducing the time it takes for a usable page to load if assets are retrieved strategically

Pages are generated for each request and include all required content in the initial payload

Performance and page load speed

Pages are lightweight and initially load very quickly, and additional page content can be loaded in small chunks as it is required, rather than all at once

Page generation can take time if there is a lot of data to assemble, but can reduce overall waiting in some circumstances (like being able to load a page in full before losing a data connection)

Hosting requirements

Basic, including serverless environments, object storage and CDNs

Full servers required to support pre-processing

Infrastructure costs


Servers and virtual machines incur higher costs


Readily scalable using CDNs to deliver to large numbers of users spread across the globe 

Vertical scaling requires more powerful servers, horizontal scaling requires a greater quantity of servers


Low, especially when you use a third-party service to host your backend data

High, as your backend code and infrastructure must be maintained


Highest when you rely on third-party authentication and third-party backends

Can be compromised if your servers or code are not regularly updated

User experience

Single-page applications delivered as static websites that load data from APIs are the industry standard

Providing infinite scrolling and other features that users expect often means duplicating front- and backend functionality in the same project

Your own experiences as a developer could provide an advantage to either architecture too — if you are already familiar with a website framework that encourages either a static or dynamic approach, you may choose to simply go with that framework's way of doing things to save having to learn a new way of doing things if there is minimal impact on the outcome (time is an important factor when planning your application!).

Examples of static websites

The first websites ever developed were static! They were simple HTML pages containing text (and later images) that were the same for every visitor.

Now, static websites can retrieve data using APIs to provide interactive experiences that can infinitely scroll and continually load text, images, sound, and video. The paradigm shift back to statically hosting website content and loading new content from APIs using JavaScript was pioneered by Jamstack, which popularized decoupling the front- and backend so that developers could fully leverage the emerging features available to each.

Examples of modern static websites are LinkedIn and Instagram. You'll notice that when using them and viewing your feed, the static page loads once, and then the content for it loads as you scroll, without reloading the page itself.

Netlify is a popular platform for developers deploying static websites, and has recently acquired Gatsby, one of the early drivers of the modern static website architecture.

Examples of dynamic websites

Dynamic websites came after static sites in the web-technology timeline, bringing the ability to display user-requested content loaded from databases.

With the arrival of dynamically generated web pages, users could request data from a site and the server would dynamically generate a web page for each user depending on their request, allowing for personalization and functionality that wasn’t possible with static sites until much later. 

One example of this is Wikipedia, which generates and delivers its pages in their entirety. Craigslist is also known for its paginated interface that is dynamically generated.

One website that highlights the difference between static and dynamic sites for end users is Reddit. The “new” Reddit website is an example of a static website: It loads once, and then grabs its content separately depending on what you do on the page. The “old” Reddit website is a typical dynamic website: Pages are generated based on your request and then don't change once loaded, and to get more content you have to click a link to go to the next page.

WordPress is a popular blogging platform and is a dynamic website experience. When visiting a WordPress blog, you can search posts, and once you've read a page of results, you need to visit the next page to generate the next set of results. Each post is loaded on its own page that loads with all of the data required to render it. 

This need to constantly regenerate pages on the server to get new content is why static websites have made a resurgence: By leveraging static pages that pull data from APIs, the page never has to fully reload to get new content, reducing server load and improving the user experience. The competition between static and dynamic website toolchains hasn’t stopped though — as we explore below.

Static websites vs. dynamic websites: Which should I use?

Choosing the right architecture and tools to develop your website or app is vital. 

You want to avoid technical debt and budget creep, leverage your existing proficiencies, and use technologies that have as much pre-existing functionality as possible to reduce the amount of work you have to do to get your product into your users’ hands. 

You also need to choose tools that provide an experience that meets your customers’ expectations and is easily iterable so that you don't fall behind your competitors.

When you should choose a static website architecture

In the vast majority of circumstances, you should choose a static website architecture. In the past this may have been considered opinionated, but in the modern web development landscape, it has the most flexible toolchains, and a huge selection of robust deployment platforms that get your content to users’ devices quickly, without the maintenance overheads of dynamic websites.

If you can think of a use case, there is a static website that exhibits best-in-class user experience for it. Ecommerce, blogs, social networking, messaging, reference, and productivity websites are all being delivered to users as static websites that query and load content to user devices via REST and GraphQL APIs.

When you should choose a dynamic website architecture

Of course, nothing is universal, and there are cases where a dynamic website is more practical than a static one.

Some developers find that it's faster to develop proof-of-concept sites that are generated server side. Internal applications and database browsers that aren't intended for public use are often also built as dynamic sites as they can be quicker to put together. In these business use cases, stakeholders aren't really worried about whether the application looks better than a competitor in a commercial environment, and downsides like pagination and reloading pages that can negatively impact user engagement aren't a factor.

It’s worth noting that while static website generation is popular, the push-and pull between static and dynamic website paradigms hasn’t ended. Newer technologies like Laravel’s Livewire are continuing to expand on what a dynamically generated website can do, allowing Laravel applications written in PHP and JavaScript to live load data from the backend, meaning developers can leverage the best of both worlds. Remix is another dynamic website development tool that actually promotes full page loading as a user experience improvement, while being deployable from serverless environments as well as traditional servers.

The best tools for building great web experiences

While dynamic sites were traditionally seen as faster to develop, this is less the case now due to the availability of composable backends and APIs that remove the need for a lot of backend logic.

This is especially true if you choose to combine static frontends with backend services like Contentful, a combination that lets you completely forgo coding your own backend so that you can completely focus on building the best possible user experience.

Best tools and APIs for building static websites

A composable architecture is a development model that lets you pick the best components and services to build your app or website and access them from statically hosted frontends and apps that authenticate users and load products, posts, videos, and other content. 

Below are some resources and platforms that can be combined to create almost any kind of application:

  • Static site frameworks/generators that will output complete HTML pages as well as JavaScript and CSS assets for static hosting.

  • Netlify is a composable web platform that lets you build, test, and deploy your static sites to a global network.

  • Auth0 provides out-of-the box authentication for your apps. It's a more secure and less labor-intensive way to provide personalized user accounts without having to code your own secure solution.

  • Contentful provides a composable content platform, including a headless CMS and GraphQL API, that lets you define the kind of content your website needs and deliver it to all of your apps and websites from one interface.

  • BigCommerce and Commerce Layer are two examples of headless commerce platforms for selling products and services and handling user transactions.

  • Stripe and Braintree let you handle online payments from statically hosted websites with minimal coding.

  • Vue.js and ext.js are JavaScript frameworks for developing interactive user interfaces for websites and single-page applications, reducing the amount of boilerplate code you need to write. 

  • If you want to graduate to TypeScript to improve your developer workflow and the reliability of your apps, React and Angular in combination with UI libraries like Tailwind, Material, and Bootstrap can provide the framework for your static frontends and user interfaces.

  • Flutter lets you build applications in the Dart programming language that can then be compiled for hosting on static websites, as well as deploying to mobile app stores.

  • Tools such as minify and ShortPixel can be used to minify and optimize your static assets, while platforms such as Cloudflare CDN and Cloudinary can also optimize your content and ensure that it is delivered to your users as fast as possible.

Best tools and platforms for building dynamic websites

If you're overhauling a legacy application or building a dynamic website to drive internal processes, you will require a server-side environment like PHP, Ruby, or Python.

  • Laravel, Django, and Ruby on Rails provide web frameworks to speed up app development. Each provides the tools for connecting to databases and processing the results for display on dynamic web pages.

  • DataTables is a great tool for presenting tabulated data in dynamic sites, and integrations with Laravel and Django can make your data somewhat more interactive than it otherwise would be on dynamically generated sites that do not use an API to retrieve data.

  • Livewire takes this a step further by letting you build more interactive pages with Laravel. While we think it's great for retrofitting Laravel apps with extra interactivity (giving them the ability to load data without reloading the page), it's still clunky and requires additional backend infrastructure compared to composable architectures with a static frontend.

What really matters: Developing the best possible user experience as quickly as possible

Static websites, built with modern tools and backed by modern API platforms, provide fast, responsive, and engaging user experiences. By leveraging serverless delivery platforms for your custom APIs, combined with composable content platforms, you can build interactive websites and applications that promote ongoing user engagement, without interrupting the user browsing experience with unnecessary navigation and page reloads.

Building reliable apps, quickly, and without needing to write and maintain your own backend code is the biggest advantage of static website architectures. Combined with frameworks like Next.js, delivery platforms like Netlify, and the Contentful Composable Content Platform, you can quickly build, test, and deploy content-rich websites and apps.

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