This may sound kind of like a sales pitch, but it seems that many people do not understand the difference between a static website (aka “brochureware”) and a dynamic website. So I thought I’d explore the question: When is a brochure more than a brochure? I think vlado put it quite simply:

“If you have more features, you’ll pay far more”

Well, Laura seems to favour exactly the opposite – quote the customer a brochure site and deliver them an ever expanding, flexible website. It’s up to them to decide where to put the boundaries, rather than their budget.

And that cuts to the very heart of why dynamic websites are the cat’s pajamas. Where before, web design firms could get away with charging per page for website development — and then charge you again every time you wanted to update those pages — now the entire model has changed. With a dynamic site, content is now largely independent of the site design. Web design is template design, setting up the right look and feel automatically and dynamically, whatever the content.

Consider Vlado’s experience:

Recently I had to work with a design company, doing web design as part of a bigger project. They had great visual ideas, technically the designs were bad. Initially they were having difficulties to understand what we want from them – Templates? What templates? Then after some discussions, they produced both jpegs, with the ideas – how things should look like, and a couple of html pages + css, which include all of the visual elements. Then after some dire struggles to clean up and refactor their design, while maintaining the visuals the things turned out OK. Stop moaning Vlado. OK. The whole point is that the work they’ve done for us on that project, is no more that the work they would have done designing a static website, maybe less.

And in the end, that’s the reason why I evangelize about dynamic websites. Static websites are a waste of money — and yet they remain to be the primary business model for web design firms even today.

A helpful analogy: Think of a static website as a taxi. You pay per trip (per update), including the flag drop (design conceptualization) and mileage (designer time). If you want to make another trip, even on the same route, you need to hire a taxi again, and pay all over again.

But a dynamic website is a car. You pay to keep it running (hosting), but you go where you want (whatever page additions or changes you want), when you want (24-hour access), as long as you want (unlimited pages).

What’s wonderful about free open-source software like Drupal is that you don’t have to rent the car — you own it outright. You might pay for the color and upholstery you want, but you drive it away and its yours, lock, stock and barrel.

Web technology has changed much more rapidly than the conventional business models surrounding it. While dynamic websites have been around since the ’90s, they’ve been prohibitively expensive for all but the largest ventures until only recently, when open source CMS efforts like Drupal brought the dynamic web world within reach of the rest of us. And with the cultural surge of blogging pushing the frontiers of interactivity, provoking adaptation and change of search engine algorithms and the advent of dynamic website tracking services like Technorati and IceRocket, the truly dynamic website has grown from a luxury to a necessity for anyone seeking to establish a viable online presence.

That’s why we don’t do web design taxi rides.

[originally published on]