Although arriving at this number was not an exact science, our 3 decades in business has demonstrated the average lifespan of a website design to be about 2.5 years. That’s around the time our current clients start getting antsy for something new and exciting. It’s also when prospects tend to put feelers out for a new web marketing partner such as ACS to handle their website redesign. For our purposes here today, let’s refer to this phenomenon as the 30-month itch. Whether the project on the table is for a long-time client or brand new contact, we are not in the business letting you spend more than you have to on more than you need to. Learn below the slight difference between refresh, rebuild, and redesign.
If your website’s visual vibe is growing a bit stagnant, it may be time to consider the options.
The Difference between a Website Refresh and Redesign / Rebuild
To better understand the difference between redesigning and refreshing a website, we’ll use the metaphor of a house. Let’s say you own a home or have invested in a property that could use a little work. Much like avocado-colored refrigerators and bright orange Formica counter tops, the design trends that were dominant when you first launched your site may not have stood the test of time quite as expected. In real estate, we examine the “bones” of a home first and foremost. Does it have a solid foundation? Are the floors even? Are the support beams straight? Is the overall layout within the exterior walls structurally sound? If so, there is unlikely a need to bring the bulldozer in to start from scratch. The same is true for digital properties. In this scenario, a fresh coat of paint and updated appliances can have stunning, transformative results—without breaking the bank. Modernizing your existing site to improve the overall user experience and further integrate your brand is considered a website refresh.
A website refresh is a lighter lift, just taking the existing structure, design, and bones of the site and sprucing it up. Recommending some SEO aspect, conversion rate optimizing the pages to maximize path to convert, and incorporating design elements that make the website pop.
A website redesign, however, is much more involved. Back to our home renovation analogy; it’s the equivalent of smashing a wrecking ball through your fixer-upper and starting over from square one with completely new blueprints. This is a major overhaul and, while often necessary, there are sometimes less dramatic options.
How do you know when to refresh your website?
Certain situations will arise where you’ll know it’s a great time to refresh your website. Things like:
- Additions to your business that deserves a new portion of your website
- Updates to search engine’s algorithms that warrant a specific change
- Seeing conversion rates below 1% – may need to look at your path to conversion
- Been a year or more since you’ve last made any changes and it has become stagnant
- Tech Stack additions – adding any CRM, lead gen, nurture programs, or chat bots warrant a small refresh
- New Marketing efforts that require polished new landing pages used for a specific purpose
How Often Should You Refresh Your Website?
If your company has the time, funding, and patience for it, we recommend a site should be refreshed each year. Refreshing content and code of your site frequently also can send signals to the search engines signalling you’re taking the time to invest in user experience.
We commonly see three scenarios in which a company feels it may be time for a total redesign:
- They are inspired by (or envious of) the sparkly new websites they’ve seen and are ready to scratch their 30-month itch.
- They have lost touch with their previous web designer and are in panic mode about the fate of their online presence.
- There’s a huge Google Algorithm update and site speed needs to be address, or images need to be compressed.
- They are going through a major rebrand, shifting their business focus, or changing their offerings.
There is usually a disconnect between a client’s assumption that their site needs a total overhaul and the reality of our options. For instance, changing the button colors from blue to green does not warrant a new website. However, discovering that years of bad code, a messy hodgepodge of untrustworthy plugins, countless bugs, and dysfunctional features are impeding the effectiveness of your website often does mean it’s time for a fresh start. You may be asking yourself, as a business owner, is this simply one of life’s unfair certainties we need to accept? Going through an epic online site launch every few years is just par for the course? We say no.
Your website may not be on the most solid footing currently—and that’s okay. At ACS, we aim to shift the online world’s mindset around the redesign vs update debate with one bold statement: Your next website should be your last website. What does that mean exactly? Glad you asked! By focusing on constructing a solid, future-proof foundation for your site build, we are setting the stage for a flexible, adaptable online presence that will evolve right along with your business. Obsessing over the behind-the-scenes details, ensuring every nail, bolt, and beam is perfectly aligned now, creates a digital property fit for long-term change.
Building Websites for Longevity
It’s easy to preach your next website will be your last website, but how can we guarantee that? Well, we can’t… BUT we can stack the odds in our favor by establishing a strong, stable foundation. The finer points of which will vary based on which platform your site utilizes as a CMS. Using WordPress, for instance, we would absolutely pay extra close attention to the following in the early stages of our construction project:
- Utilize a premium hosting service with a stellar track record that includes SSL, backup management, Php updates, malware protection, bank-grade security encryption, and fanatical customer support.
- Work on a child theme! Using a parent theme by default is one of the most critical mistakes you can make when building your WP website. Once you go down the wrong road at this stage, it can be difficult (or impossible) to backtrack later. This practice offers a much-needed layer of protection between your awesome customizations and the platform’s semi-frequent updates.
- Only employ reputable plug-ins and extensions (and keep them to a bare minimum). With every new plugin installed, you are opening up your site to potential security risks and versioning conflicts in the future. Aim for fewer than 15 plugins total and select only ones that have great ratings, plenty of current users, and updates often.
- Hacks can hurt you. Whether you yourself dabble in web development or you’ve hired a hotshot coder who gets a thrill from manipulating code, be weary! WordPress relies on an intricate universe of database tables, dependent files, dynamic loops, and included scripts. Hacking your way to a desired functionality may work for today—but opens you up to an epic site crash every time you update anything for the remainder of that site’s life. The more you tinker with core code, the more risk and uncertainty you inherit.
- Long-term SEO: setting your site up for the long haul in organic rankings is the most ideal path for growth. A lot of people think SEO is a set it and forget it medium, but you have to keep developing content, updating pages and tweaking the page for algorithm updates. If you optimize the page up front for maximum visibility, then your page should grow as you add new fresh content to it!
- Take ownership of your site! You’d be surprised to learn how many companies we talk to who have zero access to their domain registrar, hosting provider, or CMS back-end. We get it. It was probably a whirlwind to get the website launched and you had your full faith and trust in the company or individual who was handling that for you. What happens when that budding pimple-faced web designer with all the promise in the world decides to become a dune buggy mechanic and stops responding to emails? You’re left with a web property that belongs to you—that you can’t touch. Be involved in the setup of your site. Make sure you have super-administrator privileges for all accounts related to your business. After your big launch, consider downgrading the account access of those involved in the build process.
Sometimes starting with a blank canvas is a good thing. Chances are, if your current site wasn’t built with longevity in mind, a redesign or small refresh is our best course of action. As your company moves into the future, start to shift your mindset around the full redesign every the and a half years. Wouldn’t it be nice to just make a few site-wide updates whenever you felt the 30-month itch come along? We’re entering an exciting time in the history of online marketing. We now have the tools and resources to build applications that last longer, hold up to change, and withstand the evolution of business.