When you budget for a big project, like a website redesign, you might wonder, “How long until I have to budget for this again?”

Odds are good the cost of web development is more now than it was when you originally had your website built. That makes “How long does a website last?” a super valid question, and one that I hope I can shed some light on today.

First, let’s take a second to think about why you would redesign your website.

1. Browsers and Code

Browsers and code go hand in hand.  They continually improve and change — that’s what website updates are all about. Coding languages (what makes your website look and act the way it does) also continually evolve. That doesn’t mean that they do so at the same rate, or that they do it in conjunction with one another. As browsers improve, your code must be up to standard in order to render correctly and properly display your website.

Photo Credit: Luca Bravo on StockSnap.io

If your website code is old and visitors view it on a newer browser, your website might appear broken. If your browser is old and you look at a website using cutting edge coding techniques, your website might also appear broken.

Keeping website code up to date is important because it impacts website security, loading time, and how flexible your site is to extend in the future.  For those reasons, code should be kept up to date and held to the most current standards. 

Google is continually pushing web designers to produce faster, more secure websites. They release expectations all the time to improve web surfers’ experiences. For example, five years ago people didn’t have to have a mobile-friendly website to show up in mobile search results. And today, they not only have to have a mobile-friendly website, they also need an SSL certificate on their website to keep visitors safe.

I completely agree with almost all of Google’s policies.  While they are tedious and time consuming to implement, Google is looking out for people and working for the greater good.  The policies they enforce are moving the Internet forward, instead of letting it out into a dark, yucky, insecure place.

2. The Joneses

The second reason websites need to be kept up to date is the aesthetic itself. Web design trends change just like fashion changes.  You wouldn’t wear the same pair of jeans for decades on end- well, maybe you would- but don’t let your website look like it’s from the 90s.

If you’re website looks outdated, your company will appear to be outdated. And that’s not the image you want to portray to the public.

3. Major Company Shift

The last reason that you might need to redesign your website is because your business might be undergoing a major change.  When a business is purchased, merged with another company, rebranded or selling a new product or service, that business might need a website redesign.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Website

Review your website annually with a web professional, run tests and benchmark it against your competitors and others in your industry. 

Running Tests and Updating Your Site

Run tests on your website to discover coding deficiencies. Incremental coding improvements keep your site up to date and running faster longer.  You will have to pay for these updates to be made, but you won’t have to rebuild your site as often.

Website.grader.com does a good job of assessing your site and delivering a report that’s easy to understand. Google also offers a barrage of tools including:

  • Test My Site – This test gives you insights about how your site performs on mobile devices and tablets. 
  • Page Speed Insights – Takes a more technical look at analyzing the content on a page and then gives you ways to make the page faster..
  • Mobile Friendly Test – Lets you test how easy it is for a mobile visitor to use a page. 
  • Search Console – Measures your site’s search traffic and performance, it also alerts you to issues and shows you how Google Search sees your pages.

Benchmarking for Style and Functionality

Meet with your designer or your web developer to discuss website trends in your industry. What may have been totally awesome four years ago, could be something that looks dated now (think jeans). Find and make small incremental adjustments that make your website seem modern. 

For example, a few years ago we widened a lot of websites.  Back in the day it was super common to have a website that was 800-1000 pixels wide. But as monitors got wider, sites bumped up to 1200 pixels wide. Now websites go from edge to edge, because they’re expected to adjust to the width of every screen imaginable.

Widening our clients’ websites was a cost effective way to make the sites feel modern for a longer period of time without having to redesign them completely.

Even with periodic incremental design and coding changes, there will come a time where you should completely redo your website.

If you’re lucky, you won’t have to redo all the content if you did a super great job with web copy and photos last time. But even if you do think your current content is great,  think twice before putting it on EVERY page of your newly designed site. Really read it and ask yourself:

  • Do you still talk about your services that way?
  • Does it still sound like your company voice?
  • Does it make you sound as awesome as you really are?

If not, bite the bullet and redo it.  A shiny new website with crappy stuff on it is just a crappy new website.

On the bright side…

When we redid our website in 2015, we rewrote most of it, re-coded it and made new graphics.  Within the first three months of launching the new site our site traffic doubled. Why? Our site already existed and we had an existing relationship with Google; it already served our content and it knew we were good. We carefully flipped the site over to make sure we met all the criteria to make Google happy.  

When we met the new Google standards, traffic exploded. We started getting leads from all over the country, all because our website was modern. What’s crazy is that our previous site got compliments all the time- but after seven or eight years, we knew it needed to be more modern.  We are a company that does great things and to expand our market to a national audience we needed to look that part.

How long does a website last?

I tell clients to set aside a budget every year for incremental design and coding changes. Every third year, set aside a bigger budget, because by year three there may be things you want to upgrade functionally or aesthetically to keep up with the Joneses (and Google). Unless your business experiences a major change, making marginal improvements every year can make your website may last six, seven, maybe even  eight years before you have to overhaul it. 

More about the Author

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Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

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