WordPress vs Static HTML: How Should You Build Your Site?

In the end, everything comes out as HTML on the frontend. That is, your site’s code is going to look something like this no matter if you’re using WordPress or a static HTML website:

WordPress html
No matter which method you choose, your code will still look like this

The important difference is in how that HTML comes into existence.

With static HTML, that story is pretty simple. You, or your developer, writes the code (including your content). Then, once it’s on the server, it’s always like that. There’s no background processing going on – your site is always right there in its finished form.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a content management system that uses PHP and a database. In simple terms, that means that when someone visits your WordPress site, your server “assembles” your site by:

Executing the PHP code to put together the HTML version of your site
Querying your database to get the content to insert into that HTML
What Is a Content Management System, Then?
Above, we told you that WordPress is a content management system, but we didn’t really explain what that means. gjstatic A content management system, often abbreviated as CMS, is software that helps you create, manage, and modify content on a website without needing to interact directly with the code.

For example, instead of needing to manually add your content by formatting it with HTML like you would for a static HTML website, you can just input your content using the WordPress editor and WordPress will handle displaying it on your site:

The WordPress editor interface
The WordPress editor interface

Similarly, if you ever wanted to edit that content at a later date, you could just go in and edit it using that same editor, rather than needing to directly edit the static HTML file on your server.

Pros and Cons of WordPress
We’ll get into some of the pros and cons of a static HTML website in a second, but let’s start with some of the reasons that over 39.5% of the entire Internet is now using WordPress.

Code-Free Content Management
The biggest benefit of WordPress is that it can almost completely eliminate code from the day-to-day management of your website. Instead, most of the actions that you’ll want to take can be performed using a graphic interface.

With this graphic interface, you can:

Create new content
Change how your site looks
Change how your site functions
Configure important SEO settings
Perform plenty of other important actions
Unless you live and breathe HTML/CSS (and probably even if you do), this approach is going to make it a lot easier to manage every aspect of your website.

Easy to Change How Your Site Looks
Every WordPress site needs something called a theme. Your theme determines how your site looks on the frontend. To install a new WordPress theme, you basically click a button or upload a single file and your site instantly adopts that styling:

wordpress themes
How you add a new WordPress theme

On the other hand, with a static HTML site, you control how your site looks using your own CSS. Not only is this time-consuming to set up in the first place, it will be similarly time-consuming if you ever want to radically change how your static HTML site looks in the future. Yes, there are CSS frameworks you can use to speed this process up, but it still requires more work and expertise to be able to manage.

We know this first hand due to the fact that a majority of the Kinsta website was created with good ole Github commits (suggested reading: git vs Github). Yes, we utilize a WordPress theme and framework, and our code is wrapped in WordPress functions, but most of what you see on our site was created by our team. This can sometimes allow for greater flexibility, but it also requires having developers on staff. If you want to save time and don’t have full-time developers, going with a pre-built WordPress theme can drastically speed up your workflow.

WordPress theme
WordPress theme

Additionally, you need to worry about making all of your CSS responsive (AKA look good on mobile), whereas almost every single WordPress theme is responsive by default nowadays.

Easy to Add New Functionality
WordPress also offers something called plugins that allow you to easily extend the functionality of your site. Want to add a contact form to your site? With static HTML, you’ll need to deal with validation and what happens with the data that a user submits. With WordPress, you just install a plugin…

How you add a new WordPress plugin
How you add a new WordPress plugin

The difficulty gap gets even bigger with larger features. Want to add a forum to your site? Good luck doing that on your own. But with WordPress, you just need to install a forum plugin.

You can even quickly tack on eCommerce or social network functionality.

Rapid Development and Changes
The combination of themes and plugins, along with WordPress’ general functionality as a content management system, mean that you can quickly spin up even complicated websites.

Static HTML can be quick for a very basic site with just a few pages… but if you need any non-standard functionality, WordPress is almost certainly going to let you build a site faster.

Want more advantages? Check out these 10 good reasons why you should use WordPress.

Are There Any Cons to Using WordPress?
You’ll find some people saying things like “static HTML websites load faster” or “static HTML websites rank better in Google.” But some of this should be taken with a grain of salt. While it’s true that PHP and a database introduces additional load time and delays, it’s not that difficult to get WordPress load times under one second – which is plenty fast.

You should ask yourself, is having a slightly faster static site worth giving up the advantages WordPress has to offer? Also, PHP performance has improved drastically over the past five years. In our recent PHP benchmark tests, we concluded that PHP 7.3 can handle 3x as many requests (transactions) per second to that of PHP 5.6. 🚀

WordPress 5.0 PHP benchmarks
WordPress 5.0 PHP benchmarks

There are also ways you can easily negate PHP and database delays by using caching to serve static HTML versions of your pages. This means every page load can essentially load lightning fast, just as it would with a static HTML site.

How much does caching impact a WordPress site? Here is a quick test on a WordPress blog before and after cache.

Without Cache
We first ran a test with cache disabled on the WordPress blog.

WordPress site without cache
WordPress site without cache (Pingdom test)

As you can see there is a significant delay in the first HTML DOC load. This is due to it not serving from cache on the server.

Without cache delay
Without cache delay

With Cache
We then ran a test with cache enabled on the WordPress blog. Nothing else was changed.

WordPress site with cache
WordPress site with cache (Pingdom test)

As you can see there is a massive improvement. In fact, simply serving up the initial page from cache on the server decreased the load time by 32.2%.

With cache
With cache

Kinsta automatically handles caching at the server-level for all WordPress hosting clients. This means you don’t have to hassle with third-party caching plugins.

When it comes to the ranking rumors you might hear, there are great WordPress SEO plugins that let you optimize your WordPress SEO by controlling every aspect of your site’s technical and on-page SEO. If WordPress sites really performed worse than static HTML sites in the search rankings, you wouldn’t see it being used by massive platforms like The Wirecutter or TechCrunch.

There are a few small disadvantages, though, and the first is maintenance. While choosing quality managed WordPress hosting can eliminate much of the worst maintenance, you’ll still be responsible for making sure that the WordPress core software, plugins, and themes are updated and compatible. This is fairly easy nowadays, but it is something that you don’t need to do with a static HTML website.


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