Redesigning a website: How often should I do it, and why?
One of the questions I get asked frequently is, "How often should I redesign my website, and is there any benefit to doing it? My site seems fine!".
As a general rule, I tell current, and potential, clients that they should invest in a redesign of their website every three to five years, in order to stay current with design trends and web technologies. In essence, you should never consider your website "done" or "complete". As the internet evolves, so do the demands of the market, and the potential customers and visitors that you are trying to reach.
A website is an extension of your business, and by default an asset, so it would make sense to keep it as up to date as possible. It is possible to maintain a website without making any changes for a number of years, but there are factors that should be considered, and sometimes there are things outside of your control.
So, is it worth spending the time and money?
Yes. And here are a couple of reasons why.
1. As internet technology changes, sometimes it breaks websites.
This was particularly true when PHP4 was the most popular coding language. Most dynamic sites were written with it (as opposed to ASP), and when servers began updating to PHP5, many people discovered that their sites no longer worked. Sometimes it was a small thing that stopped, other times whole sites went down, and a lot of people had no idea why.
I'm not saying that will happen now, since most of us are using PHP5 and PHP6, but it's impossible to know.
2. Better technology can make your website work better.
With the rise of the iPhone (and subsequently iOS), some technologies have taken a seat on the back burner while others have become more prominent. While many might argue that Apple was responsible for such a shift, I'd be more inclined to say they helped with a trend that was already starting.
Of course, I'm talking about Flash.
It wasn't too long ago that many websites (and many still do) employed fancy animations and slideshows to engage visitors. At the time, it was really the only way to accomplish something like that, and it was an expensive investment that made your site look great (usually), didn't help your search engine ranking, and wasn't always easy to change. Flash, of course, is an embedded movie that integrates with your website, so in order to make any edits, the original file had to changed and then exported again.
And if you happened to lose access to your working file, then you were out of luck.
By no means am I saying Flash is dead, or that if you have it you're a bad person. I'm just using it as an example of the way web trends have changed.
3. Enter HTML5 and CSS3
Remember those fancy drop down menus that faded in and out, with the cool gradient backgrounds? You can have those now, and you can do it without Flash. What does this mean for you, the average user? For one, it means no more worrying about "not having the most up to date plugin". As long as you have a current browser (which we'll say is pretty much any version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE10), you'll be able to see the fancy stuff. And it makes updating a breeze, when compared to sorting through layers of animations to export a usable file.
4. It's actually less stressful
It may not seem like it, but if you update your site (and by update I mean have it redesigned, recoded, etc.) every three to five years, you're giving yourself a better chance of staying ahead of the curve when it comes to the risk associated with technology updates. Remember how I mentioned the problem with upgrading PHP4 to PHP5, and how a lot of websites broke because of it? Wouldn't you rather stay ahead of a problem, instead of rush to fix it after the fact?
5. Sometimes it's just a good idea to update the look and feel
Have you ever noticed how you can just tell when you visit a site that was built in 1995, or maybe the person who built it didn't progress far past that? How much business do you think the site bring in? My guess, it's probably not a lot, and a lot of times it depends entirely on the look. It doesn't matter if you have the best pizza in town, if your site doesn't look like it's been updated since the dawn of the internet, chances are people going to go elsewhere.
Unfortunately very few people actually realize that subconsciously they are making decisions like that based on how the site looks. An added item to think about is how your site is portrayed on tablets and mobile devices, as well. You can read my blog on responsive design to learn more about that, and how it can impact your website.
6. Other items to consider
- Does your website have broken links, or outdated pictures?
- Is your site easy to navigate?
- Does it appeal to your target audience?
- Does it look professional, or comparable, to other sites in your same circle of business?
In the end, it's important to have a website that you are proud of, but it's also important to have a site that functions the way it should, so you can get the most out of your investment.
By James Rogers
Creative thinking and development are just a part of what makes James tick. When he's not working on a project for a client, he's usually working on a project for himself. When he's not doing that he can be found snowboarding, hiking, or enjoying a broadway show with his wife.