A while ago, Google instituted its “Core Web Vitals” metrics and told us that future rankings will be (mildly) impacted by page speed. At this point, I got a little obsessed with reducing my “Time to First Byte” (TTFB) metric in order to reduce my Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) time. I examined so many different solutions – and one very compelling idea was static WordPress solutions. I remember thinking that it introduced too much complexity into WordPress, and that the gains weren’t worth the potential for something to go wrong.
Recent technological improvements like Cloudflare’s APO and the availability of full EDGE caching of HTML content might have made static sites moot however. Here’s an analysis.
What is Static WordPress?
Everyone knows that vanilla WordPress out of the box is slow. Particularly if you have a slow web hosting provider. We try and mitigate this by caching dynamic pages either through plugins, or through server-side caching as NameHero provides with its LiteSpeed server. These plugins create what are essentially static HTML pages that don’t query the database. We’ve covered server-caching extensively here on the NameHero blog.
However, static WordPress solutions take things one step further by removing the PHP and database component entirely and generating your entire site as a collection of static HTML pages. In effect, “WordPress” as you know it doesn’t play a part anymore when a visitor comes to a webpage. The request is redirected immediately to a corresponding static page on the web server, and it’s served without any further processing. You could say that it’s “caching on steroids”.
Static Sites are FAST!
It’s an extreme solution, no doubt. But the results are worth it. With static WordPress solutions, your server response time becomes pretty much instantaneous. Or at least, as fast as possible. Your TTFB times will thank you. Of course, you still have to perform on-page optimization to ensure that your 3rd party scripts and more don’t slow down rendering. But the raw HTML response from the server is blazing fast. Faster even than any caching plugin.
Here’s the Tradeoff
The problem with static site solutions however, is that it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes effort to make it work. There are all kinds of issues regarding dynamic pages like contact forms and e-commerce. Moreover, unlike caching, a static site is generated all in one go. Normally, caching solutions wait for the first visit to a page before storing an HTML version for subsequent visitors. But static site generators create the whole thing and update it each time you make a change to your website. This requires a considerable amount of processing power. You can imagine what it would take for a large site!
EDGE HTML Caching Makes it Obsolete
My prediction is that CDN providers are stepping in to expand their offering to augment hosting plans by starting to cache static HTML in addition to assets like CSS and JS. When this happens, static WordPress solutions won’t be needed anymore because the CDN already has static pages stored on their EDGE servers, and can serve them up faster than ever. I’ve already discussed how I reduced my TTFB times on my website WP-Tweaks.com by using Cloudflare’s Cache Everything solution. And with LiteSpeed’s own QUIC.cloud coming out of beta, CDN providers are going to go all-in on this new capability.
With all this happening, static WordPress solutions will be a thing of the past. The only benefit they bring is that the first hit to a page will be as fast as subsequent ones. I would say that static sites are also more secure. But surely, we can find another way to achieve the same level of security without fundamentally rewriting the way WordPress works? I believe that static sites stretch WordPress too much beyond what it is supposed to do. And with EDGE HTML caching, you may no longer need to.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!