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Static HTML: the No-Maintenance Website

Want to Forget About Your Website? Consider Static HTML.


Do you hate upgrading software? Do you just want a simple site, with a few pages? Does everyone keep telling you, "WordPress is so easy!" but the whole idea makes your stomach hurt?

Consider static HTML pages. "Static" means that the pages don't change much.

Wait, you say. Isn't that the whole point of websites? New content?

Usually, yes. That's why static HTML is usually a very bad idea. But sometimes, it's the perfect choice.

When Is Static HTML a Good Idea?

Static HTML is a good idea if all of the following are true:

  • Few pages: The site will only have a few pages.
  • No new content: The content will not be changed or updated more than once or twice a year.
  • Simple design: The site will have a simple design (e.g., no "Recent Posts" section).
  • Good webhost: Your webhost promises to keep the underlying server software up-to-date.

It also helps if one or more of these are true:

  • You're a little paranoid about security vulnerabilities.
  • You relish the thought of never having to maintain the site.
  • You would rather edit text files than install and maintain a CMS.
  • Your main goal with the site is to set it up and forget about it.

When Content Isn't Your Business Model

Static HTML doesn't get much press these days, because the Internet culture is obsessed with new content. A professional blog can require new content at least three times a week, and often more. Doing that with static HTML would be horrid.

But what about all those small businesses, nonprofits, and clubs that aren't focused on content? They only "need a website" to affirm their existence.

They don't need to blog, post status updates, or sell anything online. Instead, they still focus on the quaint, non-digital activities of yesteryear, such as fighting fires, arguing court cases, and setting broken bones.

In their minds, a website is a necessary evil. Like a listing in the Yellow Pages, except it costs money. Get it over with!

They want something small, cheap, and quick, and they want to forget about it.

Benefits of Static HTML

The main benefit of a static HTML site is that you can forget about it. You don't need to worry about keeping any software up-to-date. (Other software is involved behind the scenes, but your webhost should handle it for you.)

You don't have to worry about your site getting compromised.

You don't have to worry about your site breaking.

The nice developer sets it up, gets paid, and that's that. A static HTML site can also be cheaper to set up than a CMS, because it's simpler.

In fact, if you don't mind learning basic HTML and finding some free template somewhere, you might be able to set it up yourself.

Also, a static HTML site can be very fast. Yes, a good CMS will also have mechanisms to be fast, but they are trickier. Static HTML just works.

Finally, it's easy to back up.

Drawbacks of Static HTML

With so many benefits, why doesn't everyone use static HTML?

Because it's a nightmare to add new content.

You know how a blog has a "Recent Posts" section, with a title and blurb for recent articles? Imagine having to cut and paste that stuff every time you add a new article.

And then also trying to list the same article on several different pages, as with category listings.

Or having multiple authors on the same site, each with different permissions to access different parts of the site.

Or deciding that you want to change the way you format the date on all the pages you've already posted.

Plus, if you don't want to learn about HTML and FTP, you'll need to pay a webmaster any time you want to change anything, even your phone number.

This is but a glimpse of the problem of managing content. Once you have to start managing content, you need — ta-da! — a content management system. This is the precise problem a CMS is designed to solve.

So consider your needs carefully before you try a static HTML site. It could be a great fit. But if you plan to add or even update your content regularly, you'll need a CMS.

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