What Do I Do: WordPress or HTML?

There are basically two popular approaches to take when you decide to build a website. You can go with a static HTML website or a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla. If you are new to building and managing websites, then you might wonder what the big difference is between these two approaches. They both make websites, but there is a world of difference on how you get to the end result. Read on to find out the difference between them, and which one is really the best for you.

HTML – CSS – JavaScript

A static HTML website is one that you build with HTML and CSS. The reason it’s called a static website is because nothing can change about the website or at least not unless you go back and change the code. Up until recent years this was really the only way to make a website. There is no dynamic content, nor is there any real user interaction. The only thing you get is what you enter into the HTML. What does that mean? Simply put, once you are done with the design and install the website it will only do what you asked it to. You can make beautiful sites that allow the users to read content, purchase products, access to free offers, sign up for newsletters and build your list. Just about anything you desire you can do with a static HTML website.

Though it’s called an HTML website, there are actually several different coding languages typically used to build an HTML website. HTML provides the structure or the core, but CSS is used to set the look and feel for the visuals and to make look pretty too. You can set the size, colors, fonts, backgrounds… etc. JavaScript can be used to add special effects to the website and even a little dynamic interaction with the user. As you can imagine though, if you choose to go this route to create your website you’ll need to know at least the basics of each of the languages used.

A Content Management System (CMS) is much more user friendly in the sense that you do not need to know any code in order to use it. CMS is more of a “drag and drop” or GoDaddy “point and click” type system. You log in to the “admin” portion of the website and make the changes you desire and update. The changes you make to the appearance or functionality of your website take effect immediately after you save and update. One of the other nice things about CMS are the variety of themes available, but we’ll talk about that later.

Most CMS sites are referred to as Blog sites, primarily due to the fact they were originally used for blogging and not much else. In recent years CMS has become so much more and are now one of the most widely used programs for building a website today. Built using PHP, CMS sites have a database attached to save all of the core and dynamic content. So once again, the biggest differences between CMS and static HTML are dynamic content (change it on the fly) and no coding required.

WordPress or Joomla?

This is really a matter of choice. Both are very good platforms and for the most part one is as easy to use as the other. The biggest difference between them is this: WordPress has been around since 2003 and is very popular. As a result, they get a huge amount of support from other programmers when it comes to Plugins (we’ll talk about this is a minute) and SEO, and there are a kazillion themes available for WordPress too, thus making it a very popular choice for both newbies and pros alike. Joomla has not been around as long (2005) but has become very popular in its own right over the yeas. It is second only to WordPress and with over 30 million downloads and now with WordPress integration, it’s no slouch. Both allow users to leave comments to posts and or pages, stream new content from sources like social media or news sites and you can also quickly add new posts to your blog without having to worry about modifying your navigation bar (its automatic) or structuring your pages, thanks to built-in templates.

Pros and Cons

Static HTML: Pros – A static HTML website is easy to setup (especially if you know code). You have complete control of the layout, look and feel. HTML websites also tend to load faster because they usually have fewer files and data to download. As stated earlier, a big benefit of HTML is that you have total control over the website’s appearance. You can change the visuals of a WordPress or Joomla site too, but you are limited by the amount of choices or flexibility available with the theme or template you are using. If you know CSS, which is a fairly simple language, then you can easily change the way your HTML website looks.

Static HTML: Cons – The cons of static HTML deal with its lack of interactivity and their complex structure with larger websites. An HTML page has absolutely no interactivity, and it only includes what you code. For example, if you code a Web page with an article, then that’s all you will get. There will be nothing else on the page except for that article. There will be no user content, no dynamic content that generates while you are away and the website will remain static. On the other hand, if you program it to include a database so that users can access information I guess in a sense you could call that a limited form of interactivity. The same holds true with a shopping cart. A user comes to your website purchase a product or service you offer; so in the same sense they can interact with your website in a limited form.

If you want to make changes to your site like adding a new post (write a new article) or page you will need to create it first and then upload the HTML file it to your server and then change the navigation bar (menu) before it is visible to the user. This takes up a lot of time, especially if you add one or more pages a day. Another consideration is: if you don’t have a good CSS structure in place then changing parts of your website can be very cumbersome. For example, you want to change the background color for all of your pages on your site. If you have the background color programmed with CSS and have it called out in the HTML for all of the pages, then changing the color in the CSS will change the color on all of the pages on your website. This is huge for website that might have 100 pages or more, otherwise you’ll need to change all 100 pages individually. As you can see, static HTML sites are easy for the guy who understands the code requirements, but not so for that person little to no code knowledge. Finally, SEO! You will need to code all of the SEO into your static website yourself. Considering SEO is a somewhat dynamic process, you will find yourself always having to go back and tweak or change your site to keep it current.

WordPress Pros – As stated earlier – you can use WordPress or Joomla, but for comparison sake we’ll only refer to WordPress hereafter. WordPress is often considered the best way to setup a website because it is very easy to do and easy for newbies to figure out. A WordPress blog does take some time to setup but not when you consider how long it took someone to write all of the code required for an HTML site. Besides, we’re literally talking hours, not days or weeks, but it would not be out of the ordinary for a web developer to spend days designing a new website using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Installing a WordPress blog only takes a few minutes with most hosts, and adding a new theme takes even less time and themes are what WordPress is all about.