How long should a website last?

You’ve no doubt heard that technology moves fast but do you really know what that means for your website?

There are people out there who are still using Windows XP, why, because it still does what they want it to do, they are familiar with how it works and they don’t consider the advantages of updating to be worth the hassle.

There is a possibility that those people who don’t move with the times don’t fully understand what is at stake by not doing so. For example, by todays standards Windows XP is very insecure. Using it to go online is a bit of a gamble because the security holes are no longer being patched by Microsoft. There are very good reasons why Microsoft are no longer patching the holes and it’s mainly because the technology used to build it is so old, there comes a point where there are more patches than original software and at that point your just sticking a plaster over another plaster, not a great recipe for a stable system.

So, it pays to cut your losses and start afresh sometimes, especially seeing as developments in hardware and software are coming about all the time. The same is true of any software, including websites. That site you had built ten years ago that was built using html and JavaScript, you know, the one that cost you an arm and a leg. Well, it still works, nothing really happened to it but it now looks a bit tired compared to your competitions shiny new site. Also, you now need the ability to add and edit content yourself and you want to add in some features. You’d be forgiven for thinking you could simply get a developer to update what you have but there are some very good reasons why this is probably not a good idea.

Fashion and trends on the web change fast, last years sliding hero banner now looks old and dated compared to todays full screen home page banners. These trends are constantly shifting and trying to reuse designs from way back when is simply going to prevent your designer/developer from achieving a modern looking site. It is very likely that it will be more time efficient to simply start again than to try and recycle old work. Also, taking into consideration newer browsers that are able to use newer ways of doing things means that rehashing that old code is simply a fools errand.

Depending on your chosen platform it can sometimes be very difficult to simply stick a new front end on a website whilst keeping the backend unchanged. Some CMS platforms do make it easier than others to do this but most of them require a fair bit of work to do so, sometimes it’s actually less work to rebuild the entire site than it is to try and reskin your old site.

So, back to the question at hand, how long should you have a site before you will need to rebuild it? This is a difficult question but in my experience you should consider doing this every three-four years. That’s a tall order if you have paid upwards of £5000 for a site but unfortunately it does need to be done if you hope to continue attracting the level of visitors you want to. I like to think of it like a car, you replace that every 3/4 years for pretty much the same reasons, it’s getting tired, it doesn’t perform as well as it did and it looks dated compared to those newer models. One way to keep the cost down is to use off the shelf software platforms such as WordPress to reduce the initial outlay for the site. By using bought in site themes you could get a developer to customise the look and feel, have a great looking site quicker and cheaper than if you had one designed from the ground up. Another benefit to taking this route is that WordPress makes applying a different theme easy meaning you can keep up with those trends and your site will always look fresh faced and modern.

So, if you have a site older than four years and you seem to shedding out money to your development agency on a regular basis to fix things or it’s taking them longer than you’d like to fix bugs, think about the software underneath your site. It’s probably not something you even think about but if your site is that old your developer is probably pulling his hair out trying his best to keep your site running but the odds and time are stacked against him.

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