A static website, as the label might suggest, is one that is not designed to change. Once the website has been designed, and the content incorporated in to the design template, each page will remain the same as the point where it is launched.
This type of website is best suited to the kind of business that does not have a large product inventory that it wishes to sell on-line, does not require a member's login facility, or does not need to have news / special offers added to the site over time. For example, a holiday cottage website might simply need a few pages that include details of the cottage, some photos of the rooms, a page giving 'how to find us' directions, and a contact form where visitors can inquire about making a booking.
(Note: a static website does not necessarily mean that you can not have any interactivity at all – contact forms etc. will often still be included.)
A dynamic website is one that is written in a server-side scripting language of some sort, and specifically, can also interface with a database. The advantage of this is that it allows for any kind of data to be displayed and manipulated on your website. Below are just some of the applications that a dynamic website can be used for:
eCommerce: managing products, customer database and orders all on the one website Bookings: displaying real time information on availability, as well as allowing bookings to be added directly to the system Forums: threaded discussion boards on any topic you wish Member's area: have members register, sign in and manage their accounts
If our holiday cottage firm instead wished to manage their bookings through the same website that their visitors use, they could have a page displaying current availability, take bookings (and payment) directly in to the database updating the availability instantly.
Examples of the scripting languages used in developing dynamic websites are Microsoft's ASP and ASP.Net languages, ColdFusion or the Open Source favorite, PHP.
These languages can be used to interface with any kind of database: SQL, MySQL and Microsoft's Access being the primary ones used.
Which type of site is best for me?
The purpose for which you are intending to use your website should be the primary driver behind this decision, and hopefully the information above has given you some insight in to this. However, the other factor that differentiates the too is another important consideration; cost.
The big advantage of a static website is that there are many types of WYSIWYG editor available to help with the designing of these websites. Microsoft FrontPage, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and other similar packages make it easier than ever to create and manage a website. Some bolder business owners might dispense with the need to hire a designer at all and create their website completely themselves. Even if you do not have the inclining to do this yourself, finding someone able to design a website for you using one of these packages is easy and significantly cheaper than hiring a 'developer'.
However, if you require the kind of dynamic functionality present in dynamic websites, then a developer is the person that you will need to look for. These are web professionals who are experienced in coding and designing databases and tying the two together, and can write any kind of application that you could possibly need. However, this kind of skill-set will come at a premium, and there before you can expect to pay a higher rate than you would for a static website designer.
Luckily there is one final tip for potentially reducing this cost: there are a number of existing 'open source' programs out there that can be used to accomplish your goals. For example, if you are looking to set up an on-line store then there are great packages out there from the likes of ZenCart or OsCommerce. It is a very rare situation indeed where you will need to hire a developer to create your website completely bespoke: instead you should hire someone who can suggest suggestable open source packages, and then customize these to your requirements. It will work out much, much cheaper for you.