The choice between static and CMS websites should be shaped by a number of factors. The objectives of your business are key to the decision, as is the industry in which you operate, and as always businesses decisions are constrained by the available budget. By working with an experienced team of website developers, you will receive the balanced advice you need to choose the right website for your business.

Static Websites
A static website is one in which the content (copy and images) is fixed. At the time the website is developed the content is placed into a static web page by the developers. As a result, if you would like to change those pages you will likely have to go back to your website development team.

Dynamic Websites (CMS)
A dynamic website is one which displays content (copy and images) that has been stored in a database or data files (e.g. XML files) and is fetched from that database every time a  web page is viewed by a visitor. Dynamic pages are essential for websites which require regular content changes e.g. ecommerce websites. If you have a fully dynamic website you will be able to make content changes yourself, without having to contact your website development team.

Pros and cons of static websites

Pro: Static websites use pages which have already been loaded, ensuring an instant response to the search engines. A rapid response to search engine bots has become increasingly important over the years for a number of reasons including website SEO, and is now considered an essential element of successful websites.

Pro: Static websites tend to benefit from clean code and rarely cause issues for search engine bots.

Pro: If you require a bespoke, high-end website, a static site will be cheaper than a bespoke, dynamic website.

Con: Future modifications which need to be made to static websites will usually need to be made by your website development team. Over time you may pay more for a static website as you are unable to make modifications yourself.

Con: Search engines like to see frequent, fresh content on websites. Static websites can become a bit stale, which in turn might affect your search engine rankings.

Pros and cons of dynamic websites

Pro: Dynamic websites can be easily updated in-house - changes can be made quickly and cheaply.

Pro: Dynamic websites are often developed using a pre-built CMS, which means they can be relatively simple, quick and inexpensive to create. However, if your dynamic site uses a bespoke CMS then it will be considerably more expensive than a static site. A bespoke CMS will significantly out-perform a generic CMS, although it may take more time to develop. If you’re looking to hit the market quickly then a pre-built, cheap and cheerful CMS might be the answer, but this is not something Designer Websites would recommend or provide.

Pro: CMS websites are essential for businesses that have frequently changing content, for example, ecommerce websites with products and prices that change daily/weekly. A dynamic website will allow you to quickly incorporate changes to products, prices and delivery options.

Con: Dynamic websites are slower to load than static websites and can take longer to be indexed in the search engines as a result. If you have a bespoke ecommerce website then you will benefit from static pages as well as dynamic pages. This can counteract the fact that fully dynamic sites may not rank so highly in the search engines, dependent upon your business, products, competition etc.

Con: Dynamic CMS driven websites can become rigid over time, particularly when you need your website to carry out a specific task which it is not currently set up to deal with. You might find the change cannot be made or that it can, but only at great expense. In this instance bespoke CMS websites can claw back your initial investment as they can be changed so simply.

Con: There are hundreds of website development teams out there who will tell you they are the best thing since sliced bread, without even evaluating your business requirements. This one-size-fits-all approach to website design is the fastest and easiest way for web companies to make money, but rarely represents the best solution for your business. There are a huge number of old and poorly developed CMS systems out there and as time goes by the code and methods used become outdated, much to the detriment of your business website.

If your business requires a website that can be frequently updated then a CMS might be just what you are looking for. Before making any decisions your business should be analysed by an experienced website development team, who can make recommendations based on the level of competition in your market, the products or services on offer, the reputation your business already has online and much more besides. The decision to have a dynamic or static website should not be taken lightly.

So what would we recommend? Well it’s tough to say without examining your business. Here are some examples to help you understand:

Example 1: You are a website development company (like us)
Analysis: Competition is high; content changes – infrequent except maybe news posts;
Recommendation: A static website and fully integrated blog for the news posts

Example 2: You are a quirky (unique) products company and want to sell online
Analysis: Competition is low; content changes – frequent;
Recommendation: Definitely a simple dynamic CMS driven website and possibly an integrated blog

Example 3: You are an online gadgets retailer
Analysis: Competition is extremely high; content changes – daily;
Recommendation: You require a more complex dynamic CMS website with as many static pages included as possible; you should also have at least one fully integrated blog

Over the years we have met many business owners who insist on a CMS, even though in some cases their websites haven’t undergone any changes in over 12 months!

At Designer Websites we have all the skills required to develop static, dynamic or hybrid websites. We would not try to sell you a CMS site when it simply isn’t required. Such practice could have a significant impact on your SEO, with grave consequences for your business. Similarly, if you need an ecommerce website and therefore a CMS, we would develop a bespoke ecommerce website, as well as possibly a set of static pages. We care more about developing the right website for your business than simply selling you something because it’s the easiest option for us!

Don’t be tricked into buying a website which is unsuitable for your business; seek independent expert advice. If you’d like further information from an experienced website development team, give us a call here at Designer Websites on 0845 272 6813.

We have just developed a fancy dress costumes ecommerce website for Freeda Promotions. It's the latest in a series of ecommerce websites for the growing online retailer.

The costumes website was actually great fun to develop and we really enjoyed putting the design work together for it. The client is extremely pleased with the results and has provided very favourable feedback for the Designer Websites team who worked on the website.

The website contains automated feeds from costume suppliers as well as allow the owners to add in their own products and products from other suppliers. The ecommerce website has a fully automated ordering process for some of the suppliers of costumes and a semi-automated ordering process for other suppliers. The website is very optimised, very sophisticated and actually looks pretty good.. we think anyway!

If you are looking for a fancy dress costumes website then we highly recommend these guys.. check out Zule at Fancy Dress Costumes.

On the 26th May 2011 the EU took the decision to change the way that websites use cookies, laying out a set of regulations which all European websites are required to comply with. A year’s grace period was given to allow Euro web-users time to get to grips with the new cookie policy and implement the required changes. This grace period will expire on Saturday 26th May 2012, so it is more than time to get your cookies sorted!

In response to the EU changes, the UK based ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) have compiled guidelines for all UK sites, to ensure that everyone is compliant by the deadline. These guidelines are not entirely clear and can be a bit confusing. If you’re not certain what your next step should be, read on for our guide to getting cookie compliant.

Why the change?
Cookies are small text files which collect information from visitors to your website and store it for later use. There are many reasons why cookies are used. Some cookies have very basic functions which help remember details like a visitor’s shopping cart contents whilst other cookies keep track of information such as user’s demographic or the information a visitor has previously viewed on the web.

So some cookies are good for users, some cookies are good for websites and some cookies fall into a grey area between the two. It is the more ‘predatory’ variety of cookie which gathers lots of information from visitors in order to aggressively tailor advertising towards them, which the EU is targeting with this new policy.

Another reason for the crackdown is the lack of user awareness out there. Research has shown that the vast majority of internet users do not have the first clue about cookies, what they are, what they do and how to turn them off. 

As many internet users’ understanding of cookies is limited, the more aggressive cookies are able to take information from visitors without their knowledge or consent. This is exactly what the new legislation is hoping to tackle.

Cookies: The good, the bad and the grey
If you’re going to implement a compliant and responsible new cookie policy, you’ll need to perform a thorough cookie audit of your website. Find out which cookies you’re using and then assess whether their beneficial to your visitors or to you. If you discover you are using cookies which are not useful to users but are very helpful to you, you will need to either remove them or start providing information and requesting permission as we’ll explain later.

As a broad rule of thumb, the ICO categorises cookies into the following groups:

  • Category 1: Strictly Necessary

These are ‘good’ cookies. They are vital to the operation of a website and to the experience of the user. They store things like shopping basket references, anti-forgery tokens and user account sessions. The new regulations will not affect your use of these cookies.

  • Category 2: Performance

Category 2 and 3 cookies are grey areas in terms of whether they’re in the interests of the user or the site owner. Category 2 cookies help with the performance of your site. They store information which will show a particular version of a site to the relevant visitor etc. You’re not likely to need consent but you should mention these cookies in your website’s terms and conditions.

  • Category 3: Functionality

These category 3 cookies store information from visitors to your website which can be used to remember user settings such as colour and font preferences. They can also be used to analyse web usage which will help you to develop your website and online marketing strategy. In terms of SEO and PPC advertising, Google Analytics cookies are defined as category 3. You will need to attain the permission of users before you can download category 3 cookies to their browsers.

  • Category 4: Targeting/Advertising

These are the ‘bad’ cookies which the EU and the ICO are trying to regulate.  If you’ve ever browsed for shoes online and then found that every subsequent site you visit displays adverts for your favourite shoes then category 4 cookies are at work. Unfortunately for affiliate websites, their cookies work in this way too.

These cookies keep track of users’ browsing histories and allow websites to provide specifically targeted advertising. For many this use of cookies seems like an invasion of privacy. You absolutely must notify visitors if you are using these cookies and must obtain their permission before they are used. 

The Analytics problem
For any website hoping to boost its web presence and traffic through search engine optimisation or pay per click advertising, changes to cookie law are a concern. Google Analytics relies on all visitors using category 3 cookies to provide them with vital information like:

  • Where your site is viewed from
  • What technology is used to browse your website
  • When and how regularly previous visitors return
  • Your most popular pages
  • & lots of other indispensable information

More than 15 million websites use Google Analytics and this 15 million includes more than 60% of the top 10,000 websites on the net. If forced to ask permission from visitors before using Analytics cookies, many users may choose to opt-out. This could seriously affect how reliable and useful any analytic data is. This, in turn, could be detrimental to the development and online marketing of your website.
Should I be worried?

The ICO has threatened to fine websites up to £50,000 for every non-compliant cookie, but before you freak out, remember the scale of the operation. There are millions of websites out there and there are far bigger fish to fry than small online businesses. ICO are much more likely to be looking out for repeat offenders and large companies who wantonly flout the new guidelines. Unless a complaint it made against you, you are likely to be safe, especially if you have made some effort to educate your visitors in a clear, easy-to-access terms and conditions section.

Of course, here at Designer Websites, we are expert website developers, not legal experts. If you want to make sure your approach to new cookie regulations is watertight, get an experienced legal advisor on side.

How do I get cookie compliant?
So now you know all the ins and outs, it’s time to decide how you want to approach these cookie changes. After your cookie audit, if you have found any cookies of category 2 or above, it is smart to take action. Either remove the cookies you do not need or make some changes to your website.

Here are a few examples of how other sites have done it…

  • The ICO themselves have used a very simple opt-in policy (opt-in is more compliant than opt-out) and a link to more information. No invasive cookies will be used on this site until the visitor accepts them.
  • The BBC and John Lewis have met the ICO halfway by adding very comprehensive cookie information and guidance on their websites – yet there is no clear or immediate information or options available.
  • BT has taken the changes very seriously. They offer reams of immediately accessible information as well as an up-front choice about whether users want to use cookies or not. These options are, however, opt-out. Cookies will be used unless the visitor actively chooses otherwise.

There are many problems with up-front choices and notifications. They can look so scary that people may simply bounce from your website, or people may choose not to use cookies which will be detrimental to your Analytics. If you are going to go down this route, we’d recommend split testing a few options so you can see which have the best results.

If you’re not going to use a pop-up or immediate cookie system, we’d recommend making extra-sure your terms and conditions contain a thorough run down of the cookies used on your site, along with all the information required to let users know how they work, what they do and how to turn them off.

We've just developed a portfolio website for Freeda Promotions Limited. This company have an rapidly expanding group of ecommerce websites, selling everything from promotional products and garments to gadgets and fancy dress costumes.