How Are Hand Coded Websites Different From WordPress Sites?
It’s important to know that websites come in two different flavours: static and dynamic. If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes on the internet, you’ve experienced both types. The differences aren’t immediately apparent, but they can have significant impacts on your website’s speed, traffic, visitor experience, and conversion rates. Let’s look at the differences between my websites (static) and ones created by WordPress or other builders (dynamic). Spoiler: it all comes down to how they’re made.
What are Static and Dynamic Websites?
Dynamic websites include websites built with WordPress, Squarespace, and most other drag-and-drop page builders. Every time a user visits a page, the web server fetches information (such as images, blocks of text, or blog posts) from a database and stitches these elements together to build the site. After the server finishes bundling it all up, the server sends the website files to the user. This results in looong loading times because a server has to assemble the website every time it’s visited.
Dynamic sites are great for webpages with lots of dynamic, constantly updating info. Facebook, Twitter, and most news sites work this way. For most businesses however, there are advantages to having your site static.
Before we get too far, it’s important to note that static does not mean unchanging. Static sites can be updated frequently with new information, promotions, etc. It’s the way they’re changed that differs. For static sites, changes are made by modifying the website’s code directly (usually HTML files). With dynamic sites, there is often a snazzy visual editor to add or modify the information in a database.
3 Benefits of a Static Website
In 2021, the average WordPress website took over 21 seconds to load on a phone.1 That is insane! Who has the patience to wait for that? If someone was looking for your contact info, it would be faster to whip out a old-fashioned phone book. All the builders, tools, and plugins that make WordPress convenient come back to bite you in the butt. Even if your site doesn’t use a feature (like an Instagram feed or a newsletter popup) chances are the finished website will still include the code for it. Couple that with the jigsaw of dynamic content the server has to fetch from the database and reassemble to build the site. It’s a recipe for disaster!
Studies on user’s browsing behaviour have found that the majority of users will abandon a website if it takes over 3 seconds to load.2 I’m definitely guilty of this. But if over 50% of your traffic has left after 3 seconds, how many will bother waiting 21 seconds? Is a website that slow even worth having? The ideal time for a website to load is under 2 seconds.
By hand making websites, I’m able to leave that time in the dust. A typical site I build loads in a blazing fast 0.5 seconds.
Speed is also important in getting your site found. In July 2019, Google updated the way they look at websites by introducing “Mobile-first Indexing.” Historically they would use the desktop version of your website, but they’ve switched to predominantly using the mobile version. This makes your mobile site load times even more important: If you’re not fast, you’re last (on the search results page).
Mobile-first Indexing helped bring about the popularity of Mobile First Development. Mobile First Development is a design philosophy that you should start creating a website with the mobile version then work up to the tablet and finally desktop screen sizes. You end up with a site that was built for phones and doesn’t leave them as an afterthought. Mobile first is easy to do when you code a website yourself but isn’t something that page builders do well. I’ll touch on that more soon.
WordPress has a lot of moving parts: themes, plugins, editors, databases, and WordPress itself. Each one of these is an opportunity for hackers. And unfortunately most of those are out of your control. Hundreds of WordPress vulnerabilities are discovered every year. Even if you’re prudent about updates, there are 20-30 plugins on your site. This means you’re dependent on 20-30 different developers to notice there’s an issue and fix it in a timely manner.
If you’re one of the unfortunate businesses to have your site hacked. Google may “quarantine” your site from search results until you deal with the malware. Meanwhile, new customers can’t find your business, and it can take weeks before you even notice something has gone wrong.
Static sites don’t have this drawback. There are no databases, themes, or plugins to exploit. It also means less maintenance: You don’t have to keep up to date with the latest versions and patches. Your site lives on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare. This means it’s simultaneously on dozens of servers around the world. If something happens to one, it’s just loaded from another location.
Website hosting, domain names, hidden charges, premium plugins, and themes. Ugh! How did a simple website end up with so many expenses??
- $2000+ For a company to build it
- $20/mo Hosting
- $15/yr Domain name
- $25/yr+ Per premium plugin
- $50/yr Website builder
- $100/hr Developer time to tweak things
Static sites: priceless. Okay, not quite. You still have to pay for a domain name (yourBusiness.com). But you can forget about all the other recurring fees. The static nature means that you don’t need to pay for constant updates to keep everything running and secure.
Why Not Make Your Own Site?
A free WordPress or Squarespace website can be very appealing options for small businesses. Popular site builders advertise that you can “set up your website in under 5 minutes.” If you’ve ever used one of these platforms, you’ll know that’s not quite the case. You spend a considerable amount of time looking through templates, learning the tools, making a few tweaks, just to scrap it all and try a new template. This is all time you could be focusing on growing your business or taking some much-needed time off.
Builders are too easy to use. They hide many of the complexities that go into building a great website. I know this sounds amazing at first, but it has some drawbacks. It’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot if you aren’t aware of all the nuanced pieces that come together to make up your online presence.
Just because you designed a mobile version, doesn’t mean your site is responsive on all devices. All the popular site builders let you tweak the design for mobile, tablet, and desktop sized screens. But how many devices do you or your family actually own that can browse the internet? I’m guessing it’s at least 3. And if you want your site to look great on any screen, those three sizes are no where close to what you need to build a fully responsive website. For example, this website has 7 different responsive “breakpoints” and was tested on dozens of devices.
What you see isn’t always what you get. Your site might look snazzy, but when Google visits it to populate their search results, they aren’t paying attention to that. It’s shockingly common for websites to omit calls to action and have descriptions that don’t tell you what their site is about. If you came across this search result, how enticed would you be if there were a dozen similar competitors?
Accessibility is often overlooked by website builders. This is a huuuge issue! When your site isn’t designed with a diverse audience in mind, it’s a nightmare for users with different ranges of hearing, sight, movement, and cognitive abilities. Screen readers and other assistive technologies can struggle to make sense of the site hierarchy. This is an issue because you’ll frustrate potential customers who may give up on your site. In many countries there are laws providing minimum accessibility standards. If you don’t meet these standards, you could be required to redesign the website or pay fines. Learn more about accessible site design.
Treat Your Site as an Investment
Seeing your business’s website as an expense is a common trap business owners fall into. A website is actually a great investment for increasing your online presence, credibility, and revenue. The cost of designing and developing a great website can be around $3000. The initial price is a bit shocking, but with a site that looks and performs better, you can convert visitors (who would have left the site) into customers. For many visitors, your website is their first exposure to your brand. You reduce your credibility if it takes too long to load, users can’t find the info they need, or it looks dated and awful.
Nearly 30% of Google users click on the first result. By the time they get to the 10th result, good luck. The click rate drops off exponentially with only 2.5% of searchers visiting.3 This is why it’s important to have a strong online presence. If you only put a half-hearted effort into your site, you’re losing countless potential clients to your competitors.
The good news is that a well performing, high ranking site is achievable (and affordable.) Chances are your competitors have a WordPress site. And with that WordPress site are all the issues I’ve mentioned above: slow loading, security flaws, poor accessibility, and out-of-date content and designs.
If you sit down and do the math, after a couple of years it would be cheaper to pay upfront for a new website instead of continuing to pay me every month. This ignores the fact that by the time you “break even” you’ll have a site that is 2 years out of date. By partnering with me, you’re guaranteed to have a site that stays current and pays for itself. The benefits of my static website well exceed the CA$180 cost. Consider this: A landscaper charges around $850 to install a brick fire pit. If their site gets just 1 new client a month, that’s a $670 return! Every additional customer only adds further value.
In the end, choosing between a static or dynamic site, builder or handmade, comes down to your budget and priorities. If your business needs live information displayed from a database (like a weather site or ecommerce shop) then WordPress or another dynamic site builder may be a good choice. Otherwise, consider the benefits of a static website.
My goal is to make professional websites available to small businesses. I charge a predictable CA$180 a month. No large upfront cost, no long term contracts or hidden fees, no fees to make changes, no BS.
I partner with small businesses to provide you with peace of mind that the web side of your business is being handled. That leaves you free to focus on what you do best—running your business. Let’s set up a chat
“HTTP Archive. WordPress Loading Speed” https://httparchive.org/reports/loading-speed?lens=wordpress&start=2021_01_01&end=latest&view=list#ol ↩
“New Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed - Think With Google” https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/mobile-page-speed-new-industry-benchmarks ↩
“Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid” https://www.sistrix.com/blog/why-almost-everything-you-knew-about-google-ctr-is-no-longer-valid ↩
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