Hi there site owner (or is that future site owner?). Comparing WordPress to HTML is not truly a valid comparison as they are different “technologies.” In the guide below, I deep dive into comparing WordPress to static HTML sites, if that was what you’re really here for.
Is WordPress better than [static] HTML? It could be; depends on your needs. Generally, WordPress will give you more flexibility if you’re a non-coder, while static HTML will have better performance.
WordPress vs HTML
I have been asked, “Is WordPress Better Than HTML?” Yes, really, I have (I say that because my developer friends out there will be thinking “Huh? Apples and oranges.”).
WordPress is a CMS, a content management system. HTML is the markup language that powers the web. WordPress produces HTML when a reader visits the site. While WordPress vs. HTML isn’t a great comparison, there could be more to the story.
Maybe the question should be, “Is WordPress better than a static HTML site?” That’s something that could be compared.
But the rabbit hole keeps getting deeper thanks to modern technologies introducing the ability to use WordPress to create static HTML websites.
Do you get the best of both worlds? The ability to edit and control your site using WordPress, but the security and performance benefits of a static HTML site?
Maybe. Maybe not. As with many things in life, the answer is “it depends.”
Before we can dive into this topic more, let’s make sure we have the same understanding of what WordPress and HTML are.
What is WordPress
WordPress, as I mentioned briefly above, is an open-source content management system. That means it is the software you log into and create content through a clean user interface.
It provides a modular framework to add/remove functionality so you can make WordPress do many things such as e-commerce, photo galleries, online courses, blogging, and more.
WordPress is a tool to abstract away the complexities of creating a website while also bringing plenty of capabilities into one package.
In other words, WordPress is a tool that tries to make creating websites easy. In some regards, it succeeds, in others — not so much.
The output of WordPress is dynamic — which means it is different based on a variety of factors when visitors land on the page. One simple example would be a page would load differently if the user was logged in versus logged out.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of WordPress.
- I think the most important pro for WordPress is the ability to get started very quickly and produce a quality product — and then have the flexibility to grow it into an amazing product.
- This means it is both easy and hard, so this will be on the cons list too. It’s easy to get started with WordPress, harder to create advanced sites, and very difficult to ultimately master.
- But any good product should work that way, right?
- It gives you the full range of control over your site.
- What I mean about this is WordPress lets you shoot yourself in the foot. Which sounds bad, but it is honestly a good thing. It means you’re not limited (too much) and can ultimately end up with exactly what you want.
- Many platforms/tools are what I call “opinionated.” This means you get what they give you, and your creativity is stuck inside their box. This isn’t true with WordPress.
- Easy access to additional possibilities, which sometimes leads to interesting discoveries.
- WordPress has a theme library and plugin library you can peruse right inside the admin dashboard. Meaning you can discover new capabilities to add without the need to code them yourself.
- In addition, developers are constantly working to improve their plugins, which means you gain the benefits of their labor.
- By giving you “easy” control, you don’t have to hire a web developer to create your site — saving you money.
- “According to a custom quote by WebFX, hiring a developer to build out a responsive site with one to ten pages that are moderately styled would cost between $7,000 and $10,000.” (blog.hubspot.com)
- The most common complaint I hear about WordPress is that while it’s simple to start, it’s not easy enough to move up toward advanced websites.
- While this is a con, I also believe it is often on the site owner. Mastering web skills isn’t an instantaneous endeavor. You do need to put the work in and not expect WordPress to magically bring your imagination to life (that would be amazing if it could, though).
- WordPress is based on PHP and MySQL. While these technologies are great, the fact it is a developed software package means you have to worry about potential security risks.
- WordPress is generally safe, and most good hosts will do at least the proper baseline of security. I don’t want to scare you away from using it.
- But keep in mind that each plugin you add is developed by someone. If you’re running an important business site, you should do your due diligence and verify plugins before using them.
What is Static HTML?
HTML is a markup language a web developer uses to build websites “the old fashioned way” (i.e., without a website builder).
When you hear static HTML in the context of WordPress, it’s usually meant either as caching or a static site generator. In other words, static HTML files created from the output of WordPress.
I like how DesignWall explains it too:
Static HTML Pros
- It’s fast. Really, really fast — usually. I say “usually” because one could build static HTML pages that have a lot of resources like stylesheets and scripts which affect performance.
- The primary reason a static HTML page is faster than a dynamic page created by WordPress is when WordPress creates a page, it has to communicate with a database, combine with templates, run some rules, and then output the results.
- Whereas static HTML does not, it simply *IS* the output right from the start.
- You get full control of the output. While technically with WordPress, you can control the output as well, static HTML is completely under your control.
- This means you can make it exactly as lean as you want for performance, or as beautiful as you want for landing page optimization — but you are coding it yourself or paying a developer.
- You could use the lowest priced web hosting.
- Since there is no need for a database or underlying code interpreter (such as PHP, C#, or Ruby), you don’t need a robust. The most basic web hosting that simply serves HTML files is all you need.
- You should be able to find static HTML hosts for much less than a full WordPress build.
Static HTML Cons
- If you aren’t a web developer, you might have to hire one to create a static HTML site. Either to create the source code directly, or to setup WordPress to generate the static HTML.
- Neither is easy for non-coders or non-techies. Manually coding your web design in HTML or setting up WordPress/third-party system to generate the static HTML.
- It’s static. While static is a benefit for speed, it is a con for maintenance. You do have to manually update the files unless you’re using a static site generator.
- Static site generators are really cool and can alleviate this con altogether.
- Limitations in functionality. Since there is nothing dynamic about it, there are limits to what you can do. With static HTML sites, you can really only create a read-only article for your visitors. The pages cannot react.
So, Is WordPress Better than HTML?
I know you’re going to really hate this answer.
Or how about this one. It depends. 🙂
There are scenarios where WordPress is the better choice and others where static HTML is better.
Let me see if I can help make this decision easier for you.
Use WordPress if you:
- Have users who will log in (i.e., membership sites where content is locked behind paywalls)
- Want to operate an e-commerce business
- Would like an interface to create/edit your articles
- Don’t have web development skills (or the money to hire a developer)
Use static HTML if you:
- Run a simple site publishing informative articles for your visitors with no interaction (comments, forms, etc.)
- Need ultimate security — a static HTML site has no database/code to hack
- Have some web dev chops (and maybe want to show off the skills)
- Want the cheapest possible hosting you can find
WordPress Static Site Generators
I won’t go too in-depth here, but there are services that will attempt to create static sites from your WordPress site.
The idea is to give you a familiar way to work on your content (WordPress), and then when you publish the output is rendered into static HTML files.
You interact with WordPress; your reader’s never do — they simply load the static HTML files directly.
This attempts to give you the best of both worlds where you can edit/manage your content and yet have the performance and security benefits of static HTML.
These tools have their limits too, but if you aren’t attempting to do something complex with your site, Shifter or WP2Static could be something you find helpful.
What Do I Use Here?
WordPress, but heavily customized for my needs. As a web developer, I have the luxury of doing this myself. But I will be documenting a way to build the fastest WordPress website possible, coming soon-ish.
In this guide, I explained what WordPress is and how it compares to HTML (or, more specifically, static HTML websites).
I hope I was able to clarify these two distinct methods of creating websites in the modern era. WordPress wins the flexibility crown, and static HTML takes the performance and security wins.
It’s really up to the needs of your project which you choose.