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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict silver trophy
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    Smile Building a very large site using static html instead of a cms

    Hi Guys

    I'm thinking of building a site using simple static html. The site I'm planning will end up having about 2000 pages of content. And I'm not completely mad - I promise!

    The site will make use of css and SSI's. The SSI's will ensure that any site-wide changes to navigation, etc are easily made. I will also use a logical and well-thought-out directory structure for the site. For example, http://www.mydomain.com/topic/sub-to...ique-page.html. This will make locating and updating pages, etc easier than it otherwise would be.

    I see the following advantages to my proposed method:
    Greater SEO potential (Content can be positioned at the top of each page rather than being buried 2000 lines down in a series of nested tables - which is what I've had when I used joomla in the past);
    No security threats (Unlike the latest and greatest open source cms, static html sites are unable to be targetted by time-wasting script-kiddies);
    There is virtually no learning curve associated with implementing this method (Unlike many cms' which tend to be somewhat convoluted)

    I realise that there are disadvantages to my proposed method. These include:
    Takes longer to update - site maintenance (ie ensuring links working, etc) takes longer;
    Limited user interaction.

    However, dreamweaver 8 has tools which make creating and uploading new pages to an existing site quite simple and speedy. As I mentioned previously, I have used joomla in the past and found the results disappointing. Besides, everytime I look at one of those cms-driven sites with a panel of questions / voting / forum (whatever they're called) I can't help but think that these are lame and somewhat forced examples of user interaction that no user in their right mind appreciates (and even less, wants to interact with)!

    I know most people will immediately say, use "wordpress" or "joomla" or "drupal", but am I correct in assuming that if two 1000 page sites went head-to-head, one using static html and the other using a cms, wouldn't the static html site (all other things being equal - i.e. incoming links, quality of content etc) win hands down?

    And, if as everyone says, content is king, and given that writing good quality copy takes far more time and effort than uploading that copy to a server (whether using static html or a cms) doesn't it make sense to want to make the absolute most of this content by having it positioned and presented optimally to gain the attention of search engines?

    I'd love to hear from anyone who is still using static html pages for their site and also, I'd love to hear from anyone who feels I've completely lost the plot and have missed out on some important lessons about building websites along the way which, unless I learn them right now, might turn my life into more of a living hell than it currently is...

    Cheers

    Bob

  2. #2
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    directory structure above should be:

    mydomain . com / topic / sub-topic / unique-page . html

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Seems reasonable to me. I haven't tried Dreamweavers template function before. I use PHP includes to create a templating effect instead. To avoid the issues with security I've been working on creating a custom CMS design which has been far easier than I ever expected so you could try that route instead if you wanted. Although if there's not going to be anyone other than yourself updating the site then there's probably no use whatsoever in a CMS.

    Ryan,

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your input Ryan.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    I'm keen to hear some expert opinions on this too!
    Ryan,

  6. #6
    Guru in training bronze trophy SoulScratch's Avatar
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    Who says the content has to be buried in TABLES? I think there are some CMS's out there that are 100% XHTML/CSS for layout, with semantic markup and overall pretty clean (Textpattern?).

    I think you will change your mind, there is no way you can have 2000+ pages and update them without some sort of CMS-like application.

    If you put some work into it, you can make your dynamic site appear like a static one, using mod_rewrite make the pages from "www.sitename.com?page=contact" to "www.sitename.com/contact". You can easily edit the pages, and they are dynamic... but the URLs don't appear dynamic. I think you can even have the pages have an html extension instead of php, or just have it like a folder without an extension.

    If you do end up going the static html route, heh... good luck.
    Cross browser css bugs

    Dan Schulz you will be missed

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tyssen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairybob
    I know most people will immediately say, use "wordpress" or "joomla" or "drupal", but am I correct in assuming that if two 1000 page sites went head-to-head, one using static html and the other using a cms, wouldn't the static html site (all other things being equal - i.e. incoming links, quality of content etc) win hands down?
    No, I don't think that's the case at all, particularly as with most CMSs you can use mod-rewrite to mimic the URLs of static sites anyway. And like SoulScratch says, there are CMS options available that don't necessarily have to be coded in tables.
    That leaves you with security and learning curve. Security may be an issue but as far as learning curve goes, I think whatever extra time you have to spend at the beginning will be recouped in savings on maintenance time later on.

  8. #8
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    Are you guys sure that search engines don't discriminate in any way against a dynamic site?

    I thought dynamically generated content was not as good as static html content for gaining high search engine positions. I haver a couple of questions:

    1. Assuming everything being equal (i.e. content, etc) would a 2000 page site using wordpress really rank as high as a site built using straight static html?

    2. Does wordpress have any known security issues?

    Cheers

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tyssen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairybob
    Are you guys sure that search engines don't discriminate in any way against a dynamic site?
    With so many dynamic sites on the Internet these days, the SEs would be shooting themselves in the foot if they didn't refine their algorithms to cater for these sites.

    Quote Originally Posted by hairybob
    Are you guys sure that search engines don't discriminate in any way against a dynamic site?

    I thought dynamically generated content was not as good as static html content for gaining high search engine positions. I haver a couple of questions
    A few years ago SEs didn't like URLs with querystrings in them. You'd be better off asking in the SEO forum whether that's still the case. The thing is though, that most CMSs, Wordpress included, give you the ability to change your querystringed pages into pages with 'SEO friendly' URLs, e.g.:

    www.mysite.com/index.php?page_id=51

    becomes

    www.mysite.com/my_page/

    As the name SEO friendly implies, SEs don't have any problem with these type of URLs.

    As for question 2, Wordpress release regular updates to counter any security issues, you just have to keep an eye on your Admin dashboard.

  10. #10
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    Thanks heaps for everyone's input so far. I suspect you guys are probably right. You're making me think that perhaps I really should be looking at wordpress or something similar.

    But I really want to make sure I maximise the value of my content in search engine rankings. After all, it has taken me far longer to put this together than it will to generate the html code for it. I'm sure I could create and put up all 2000 pages in a few days. But gathering the content (which is not entirely complete yet) has taken ages - months of time rather than days.

    As suggested, I've started a thread in the SEO forum which you guys may be interested in:

    http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=441032

    Once again, thanks heaps for your help.

  11. #11
    Brevity is greatly overrated brandaggio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairybob
    I'm thinking of building a site using simple static html. The site I'm planning will end up having about 2000 pages of content. And I'm not completely mad - I promise!

    The site will make use of css and SSI's. The SSI's will ensure that any site-wide changes to navigation, etc are easily made. I will also use a logical and well-thought-out directory structure for the site. For example, http://www.mydomain.com/topic/sub-to...ique-page.html. This will make locating and updating pages, etc easier than it otherwise would be.
    As has been pointed out, most of the SEO issues associated with using CMSes have been addressed on the the app side and search engine side so that is not an issue. CMSes like Textpattern (wicked fast) and WordPress (very fast) serve pages in a snap, so performance is not an issue anymore either.

    I would keep the site lean by using clean HTML/CSS and optimized images.

    The big question is will you be just porting over pre-existing content or will you want to publish often? For me, having a quality CMS to manage content with allows me to just get down to publishing content and not worry about the site and its code. There are ways to remotely publish via Dashboard widgets, email, AIM etc. - making it easy to publish a review from the road for example.

    If you require ease of publishing and want to be able to generate a lot of quality content (that is even well marked up), you should use a CMS. As a bonus with a CMS you will get commenting, forms, add-ons that enable you to add "d$gg this" links and much, much more. This will/can help in community building if this is a goal.

    So functionality wise there is no comparison - a static site is a car from the 70's and WordPress site is a 2007 Prius. But you could go static depending on what you require of course .

  12. #12
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    Alright, I'm sold. It's time to get into a cms.

    Now, I've just got to find the right one! Thanks for everyone's help here. I really appreciate it!


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