A word in favour of static HTML over CMS sites

For the better part of the past decade, Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have been the modus operandi for web designers and developers when building a web site. Need as site? Hop over to wordpress.org, grab the latest version, download, upload to server, run install and voila! A working web site you have…

The number of high quality themes, either free or paid, has skyrocketed. Never before was it so easy to quickly setup a beautiful web site and have a usable interface to manage said site.

I myself have been following the same methodology when producing hundreds of sites over the years. Until recently, I never stopped and wondered wether this was the right way. Even when building a basic five page brochure site, WordPress it was! Thinking back about it now, I realise this way of building sites was a gradual process. Way back when I started building my first sites (somewhere half way through the nineties), I simply put together static HTML files, threw them on a server and called it a day. Then the CMS’s arrived on the scene and I started building bigger and bigger stuff. For sites with hundreds or even thousands of pages, using a CMS made (and makes!) sense and since I was building quite a few of these, using a CMS kinda become the “normal” way of building sites. After a while, I started applying the same methodology to smaller sites as well.

Now, I guess I did have my moments where I thought to myself: “Is this right? Wasn’t this a lot easier when I was simply hand coding markup files to build basic sites?”. But hey, who has time these days to stop and think, right? So on I went and WordPress it was.

The tipping point for me was when I started building one pagers. When doing my first or second one pager, I realised that what I was doing was insane… Why on earth am I installing tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of lines of PHP code to generate a single page of HTML? I can just throw together the markup within a single index.html upload it and call it day! So that’s what I did… From then onwards, I took my time before putting together a site and evaluated wether or not a CMS is called for. Believe it or not, but Content Management Systems ARE NOT ALL POSITIVE! They come with serious downsides (resource usage, security issues and design freedom come to mind) and therefor should not the the default choice when building a site.

Nowadays, when building small sites, which are likely going to require little changes over time, I use regular old HTML and forget about the WordPress route. Especially with the huge supply of ready made HTML templates available on sites like Themeforest and CreativeMarket, I found that when building a simple site for personal use, going with static HTML resulted in:

  • a much faster build (I love working with HTML and I’m pretty fast with it)
  • a more secure build (nothing to hack here, no security pain points)
  • a much less resource-hungry build (serving up static HTML is little effort for a web server compared to using WordPress)

During the last year or so, I have built the following sites, all using static HTML rather then WordPress: