Static HTML vs. WordPress: Speed or Simplicity?

Last updated on March 30, 2023 by Cameron Sheppard

So you want to create a website.

You’ve been looking for a place to start a blog, or post the menu of your family-owned restaurant.

However, you googled “how to make a website” and a million different website builders and articles appeared. You probably wondered, “where do I start?”

Well, I’m not here to teach you how to code or use a complex admin interface, but I can provide some guidance on which route to take. In this article, I’ll describe two popular website creation methods and look at their pros and cons in relation the average Joe.

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What is a static HTML website?

A static HTML website merely refers to a group of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) files whose content cannot be modified without digging into the actual code.

HTML is the standard backbone of information on the web. Almost every text snippet, button, and other element you see on a webpage starts with HTML. It then goes on to be styled with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), another popular coding language.

Making an HTML website is basically starting from scratch. But no worries, because there are tools like static site generators that make the process a whole lot easier. All you have to do is learn how to modify the content.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s all technical mumbo jumbo. You don’t want to turn into that one IT guy who gets carpal tunnel from coding all day, do you?

Well, that’s one way to describe a coder’s work life in a nutshell.

Fortunately, HTML is arguably the easiest coding language to learn. Believe me, I’ve seen students start and, within a month, build a professional-looking website from scratch.

This may be partly attributed to HTML’s straightforward structure, in which all elements are made with tags. There’s no document.getElementById crap; just tags like <img> and <nav> that do some of the busywork for you.

Of course, learning HTML takes some time. One way to build a website quicker is by using WordPress.

What is a WordPress website?

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that serves as a convenient way to design a website, without all the code jargon.

The popular CMS allows you to create posts and pages, install plugins, and even use pre-made templates—all from a user-friendly dashboard.

Here’s a screenshot of this user-friendly admin dashboard:

Screenshot from the documentation of the WordPress admin dashboard; has a main navigation, a toolbar, a work area, and a footer – Administration Screens

Obviously, there’s a lot to explore. It’s probably not what you expected to use when building your website. If this is true, you may be better off using a more simplified platform such as Wix or SquareSpace.

But that’s what you’re greeted by when you first install WordPress. The platform is almost entirely visual, depending on which plugins you decide to run.

Let’s delve deeper by looking at the pros and cons of both static HTML and WordPress.

Pros and cons of static HTML

What’s good:

  • You get what you get. Just lines of HTML code and styling.
  • You can make whatever you want. You’re only limited by how much code you know.
  • See your changes in real time. With colorful code, too!
  • Runs a lot faster. Static HTML doesn’t need a huge backend + database like WordPress does. All processing takes place on the visitor’s side.

What’s not:

  • Long(ish) learning curve. You must learn HTML and CSS at minimum, plus JavaScript if you want the website to be interactable.
  • Updating is tedious. With each change you must directly edit an HTML file, which rebuilds and redeploys the entire website.
  • Tough to optimize for all devices. You will likely have to build the same website at least three times for mobile, tablet, and desktop.
  • Can’t do complex actions. For example, building a multi-step payment form that stores the IP of each submission.

Who static HTML is good for

Static HTML is good for businesses that don’t need to update their website periodically, or only need to display basic contact information, such as:

  • Restaurants. Those who want to post their menu and maybe a contact number to order over the phone.
  • Landscapers. Detail your services, why you’re better, and a phone number for clients.
  • Photographers. Get your portfolio out there.

Pros and cons of WordPress

What’s good:

  • Lots of options. There are a million different plugins and templates you can put to good use.
  • Mobile-friendly. Most themes out there are responsive, meaning they adjust to the screen size of the device they are viewed on.
  • Handles complex actions. Need to send an automatic email to a shopper who abandons their cart? With the right plugin, WordPress can do it.

What’s not:

  • Difficult dashboard. In terms of user experience (UX), WordPress just doesn’t fit the bill.
  • Designed for blogging. At its core, WordPress is meant for bloggers. Nowadays, people have workarounds.
  • Slower than static HTML. WordPress is built on a sizable PHP framework and uses a MySQL database. Changes often take more than 15 seconds to show on the frontend.

Who WordPress is good for

WordPress is good for businesses that constantly update their information and handle complex actions online, such as:

  • eCommerce sites. Businesses that sell their products and take care of the payments online.
  • Any account-based site. Businesses that have numerous users that log in, log out, and upload to the site.
  • Blogs. Monthly magazines such as Wired, articles for techies like the ones on TechCrunch, and even daily news channels like New York Post use WordPress.

My personal choice

Static HTML.

Yeah, what a weird choice for someone who runs their own website on WordPress.

If I was stuck between WordPress and static HTML and I know I could reasonably succeed by choosing the latter, nine times out of ten I’ll be coding away. But this is just from a personal project standpoint; I think it’s a cool challenge to create a website from scratch.

So I say, if you’re a small business that just wants to get something out there (because everyone has a website), then get coding! You’ll be satisfied with the results.

Final thoughts

Static HTML or WordPress? Whichever route you decide to take, make sure to give yourself time to learn and improve. Rome wasn’t built in a day, blah blah blah.

On a simpler note, you can hire a local design firm or a freelancer to build your website for relatively low cost. Maybe money is a worthy exchange for your time? I challenge you, dear reader, to think about that question as you go about your day.

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