How Long Does a Business Website Last Before it Needs to be Replaced/Redesigned?

A question that goes arm-in-arm with, “How much is a business website supposed to cost?” is “How long will our business website last?” With a landscape that’s evolving quickly, it’s a valid concern.

We’ve come a long way from flat HTML websites, and the rise of proprietary website content management systems has, for the most part, fallen into disfavor.  Fortunately, the web is now more open, mostly thanks to the open-source movement. Now, there are great open content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and others continuously developed by large development communities as opposed to an individual or single organization.

Previously, if looks and aesthetics evolved on the Internet and you had a proprietary CMS that wasn’t updated, your website quickly fell behind. Or, if it was just an old HTML website, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do other than rebuild it page by page or piece by piece.

The current open-source content management systems have elongated the shelf life of these websites as they’re always updated. So, if you started a WordPress site in 2010, chances are if you continue to update the plug-ins and modules, you won’t have to do much to ensure it works.  And as aesthetics change and grow, you can update the visual aspect of your site without having to lose or migrate your content.

Is your website still your website?

To this end, websites now last longer than before and a total rebuild is far less frequently needed as simple updates or upgrades to various components of the site itself.  Which brings up an interesting analogy in which I’ll compare your website to Theseus’ Paradox – to simplify it let’s say you inherit your great great grandfather’s axe.  The blade is chipped, so you replace the blade and continue using it.  Years later the binding starts to loosen so you replace that.  After some time every component of the axe has been replaced.  Is it still the same axe that the grandfather has given you?

The same is becoming true of your website – as the design trends change, you may change the design.  You may add and remove extensions, modules and plugins.  You may update, or event change your CMS.  But though all of these changes is it still the same site?

How to Know When Your Site Needs Redesigned

At the end of the day, there are a number of ways to tell when your website needs to be redesigned;

  1. You’re fielding lots of complaints from visitors/users.
  2. You’re behind the times and look out dated/old fashioned.
  3. Your metrics/analytics show that performance is suffering or dropping off.

I believe this last factor is the one most businesses and organizations should adhere to.  Though it will certainly vary depending on your industry, an artist or design studio must constantly be following best practices and trailblazing the way into the future, whereas a construction company website needs to showcase their work and make it easy for clients and prospects to find and get in touch with them.  To truly determine how often you’ll need to update your site, you’ll need to ensure you’re measuring how it is working for you, and know when it is appropriate and worthwhile to invest in updates.

To provide some ball parks numbers, in 2008 it was expected that a small business or organization website launched in late 2007 would last anywhere from five to seven years before falling so far behind that it would be well worth while to replace it.  Now that it is 2014, we’ve seen those cycles shorten as design trends turn around more quickly, and technology grows and expands at a more rapid clip.  I personally believe that a websites design can provide value for 2-3 years so long as minor updates help keep it up to date along the way.  

Much further beyond 2018-2020 and we’re moving beyond the discussion of websites as we currently know them.  Rest assured, they’ll continue to evolve and play a growing role (alongside html5+ mobile apps) as the web continues to evolve. If you’d like to chat about your site, or obtain a complementary website audit (Usually starting at $249!) to see if your site is outdated email us at questions [at] yokoco [dot] com and use the title of this post as your email subject.

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