Recently I was asked to give an estimate for redesigning a web site, and the client asked an interesting question:
What is the lifecycle of a web site these days? How long should a web site last before it needs to be redesigned?
There is no one right answer about how long your web site will serve you. But for budgeting purposes it is helpful for small business owners to be realistic about the costs of redesigning a web site and how long until they will need to repeat the process.
How long will your web site last?
No, web sites don’t have expiration dates. But after a certain time, they seem to be irrelevant. They are no longer a useful tool for the business, and are no longer supporting the original goals of the web site. Without a redesign, a web site can actual begin to detract from the organization behind it.
There are several factors that may determine whether or not it’s time to redesign or redevelop your web site
- Has your business grown or changed direction? When we talk about small business web site design, the driving force behind the web presence is the business itself. So, if your business has grown and is offering new products or services, or if you have streamlined operations and are not offering services you used to, your web site should reflect this change.
- Is the content, and the structure for the content still relevant? If you realize that your offerings have changed, you may be able to make the updates within the current structure and design of your web site. For example, your navigation may say “widgets” and even if you’ve changed from orange to blue widgets, it can be integrated into the web site. However, if you’ve introduced “doo-hickeys” and that cannot be added to the main navigation bar, you may be making it difficult for people to find your newest services.
- Is your message to prospects still relevant? There are many factors that determine what message resonates with your clients. It may mean working with someone with marketing experience to rework a message. Or, changing market conditions have forced you to adjust your positioning. You want to make sure that the web site design reinforces the same message as your text. If not, it’s time to update your web design.
- Are you behind or ahead of the technology curve? Web standards change fast. While you can try and anticipate trends, it’s impossible to predict the future. What was a best practice (or at least reasonable practice) a few years ago may no longer be worthwhile. An example is adding a Content Management Software (CMS) to your site. Five or ten years ago, this type of tool was beyond the budget of many small business owners, and it made better financial sense to just send updates to their web developer when necessary. Nowadays, there are many economical CMS platforms and honestly, I can’t imagine recommending a web site without this capability built in.
- Was the site well designed when it was new? Like all elements of design (including things such as industrial design, fashion, etc.) there are some designs that are classic and can stand the test of time much better than others. In general, if you haven’t invested in professional web site design, the unpolished look of your site will probably start to look worse and worse as time goes on.
- What are the expectations of your clients and prospects? This is one of the biggest factors in web site design right now. Everyone is getting more and more sophisticated about web site design. While it may have been acceptable at one time, to “just have a web site,” now it needs to be more than just a poorly designed web presence. Your prospects may be looking for a professional brand identity to determine if they trust you. They may want you to offer e-commerce directly integrated into your site. They may be looking for you to be a thought leader as demonstrated by a well-written blog. If you are not stepping up and keeping your site looking fresh, relevant, well-designed and highly-functional, your competitors will fill that gap.
These are six factors that may help you determine how long your web site design will last and whether it is time to start thinking about a redesign.
Do I need to redesign my web site?
What is the bottom line? I’m seeing a lot of requests for proposals from organizations who are redesigning their web site after about three or four years.
A site that is well designed and using some of the best practices for development will last on the longer end of that spectrum. A site that skimps on either design or technology will likely expire more quickly.
On a personal note, we are in the preliminary phase of redesigning our own web site. We did our last redesign in 2008.