The traditional way of building static webpages is long gone. In the past years, we have developed new methods to improve our workflow and make our code as efficient as possible. In turn these have led to the most efficient creation of dynamic websites.
A static website (or webpage) is the conventional way of developing pages using only front-end languages. When a visitor opens your website, the content is shown as it was originally saved on the server. Nothing changes to the user. Everyone that visits your site will be shown the same content as everyone else.
In contrast, dynamic websites are generated from the server, and may serve different content depending on the information provided by the user, or saved cookies data. The content is also dynamically provided as required by the actions or current activity of the user.
Websites are made up of a collection of webpages, connected together by links or call-to-action buttons. In most cases, all of the webpages throughout a single website will contain the same layout and components. Some of these can be the: header, footer, newsletter-form, side-bar, site-navigation and modal dialogs. A dynamic website is built to make use of functions that contain all the main layouts and global components. We then call these specific functions in each page accordingly. But what makes a dynamic website so efficient?
Let’s have a look into the main advantages of building dynamic websites.
Maintaining your code
If all the pages in our website are made statically, each time we want to update a common layout throughout the whole website, we would need to iterate through each page and make the changes line-by-line, and page-by-page. This would make multiple corrections seem tedious and a waste of time. If you have ever written CSS without any use of preprocessors, you’ll know what it’s like to maintain the styling of numerous webpages. The same applies for HTML. Making your website dynamic makes it easier for you to maintain your code and easily keep track of all your changes.
Maintaining your code should not become a nightmare.
Updating your website
If your main goal is to progressively enhance your website, to keep up with the latest web technologies, and apply continual updates and improvements to your layout and design, then implementing a dynamic website will make these tasks easier to apply and less time-consuming. In a dynamic website all the global layouts are saved into separate functions, so we can simply re-touch the mark-up in one place, and immediately test it in multiple pages. Making another update or change, is as simple as changing a few lines of code in that one particular function.
Easily manage your webpages
Once you build a robust dynamic structure in your back-end, manipulating a page is as simple as passing a new argument. For example, if you have a navigation system, and you would want to either hide your current active page-link, or simply make it inactive, all you have to do is pass a class name (or a conditional argument), and apply it to the navigation before the server actually builds your page. This provides better control over each page, and whether it’s a navigation or a crash-course popup dialog, you can easily choose and control what you want to show for each individual page, in just a few steps.
Improving your workflow
Your workflow becomes more productive and efficient. Although it might take you a while to implement the basic structure of your dynamic layout, eventually creating a new page is as simple as copying an existing file, and updating the content inside it. Remember that a dynamic website is not only there to help us manage the layout of the page. One of the main advantages is the use of web components.
Let’s say you have a button that contains a click-event that opens a dialog for registration (e.g. newsletter or subscription). Anywhere throughout your webpages that you want this button to appear, you just call its respective function. Making changes to the dialog or layout wouldn’t require you to make changes for each individual page.
Once you create the basic dynamic structure, preparation for a new project becomes a breeze.
Preparing a reusable template
Another great advantage of implementing a dynamic system is having a base template that you can reuse for individual projects. Common layouts such as headers, footers and side menus are nearly inevitable for each web project. Saving a basic layout for future developments will heavily improve your productivity on new projects. You can quickly create the basic HTML structure in a couple of hours and immediately start with styling your website.
By time and practice you will notice that building a custom layout for your clients can be done in a few days — if not in one day. I prefer this approach since I can focus more on the styles, and knowing that if an improvement is required on the page layout, it comes as simple as changing the mark-up in only one of the pages, were it is then immediately applied on all the rest.
Keeping your website DRY (Do not Repeat Yourself)
Keep in mind that if you want to continue improving your web-development skills, you should start by building your own unique workflow that you find yourself comfortable with. Once you get used to this approach, you will be able to focus more on learning new methods and technologies that you can continually apply to your web-development knowledge. After years of coding, I found that this was a huge step forward for me to focus on learning more, and setting aside more time for side-projects.