Is your website past its prime?
Website Lifespans and Life Expectancy
Websites are short-lived. Their age is dictated by technology, trends and consumer habits. Now, whilst I can almost hear you shouting at me “of course you’d tell me I need a new website design”, it comes from a position of wanting the best for the clients that I, as a website designer, represent through my work. So how long would you imagine an average website lifespan is? Four years? Five? The actual answer to this is anything from one to three years, depending on the market your website caters for. Typically a website is past its prime at just over two years old. I was surprised when I found this out too.
Why don’t web designers and developers make websites future-proof?
The simple answer to that is that we can only do so much. Web designers only know so much about the trends, technology and viewing habits that will happen over the next couple of years. As a designer I must have a foot in the here and now, as well as an eye to the future, but that will only allow me to create designs that are reactive to the time they are produced in. A website could also be designed as much as one year in advance of it going live, so that is worth considering too.
In the past 8 years website traffic on mobile devices has risen from practically 0% to well over 60%, meaning that website designs have had to change to accommodate this rapid increase in mobile traffic - I’ve talked about mobile first design in a previous blog. Not only do more hits come from mobile devices, but search engines, such as Google, will actually penalise any website that does not have a suitable mobile friendly offering. If your website was designed over 6 years ago then the likelihood is that it may not have been designed to be mobile friendly and will not function as well on these devices as a website that is only a year old.
Websites haven't just become smaller, though; new desktop monitors are now significantly bigger than those produced 8 years ago. Pixel density and colour range on newer screens is also much better, with most users now viewing the web in at least HD quality.
Keeping up appearances
Trends also play a part in killing off old websites. A website that is over 3 years old, let alone 6, will start to look dated as it was probably designed using the design trends of the time. A dated looking site will have a negative impact on viewers, with bounce rates much higher on older websites. What's more, the direction of your business or its clientele may have changed slightly in this time. A website redesign should not only happen when you update your branding, but should be part of your ongoing brand evolution. Remember, your website is probably the first impression you are going to make with a customer, so it should be the best impression that you can make. This is especially important if your business is design, lifestyle or technology based - time is much less forgiving on these sectors.
It is also a good idea to keep an eye on your competitors’ websites. Have they recently redesigned? If so, does their new website seem more inviting and user friendly than your site does? If a lot of your business is based online, you could start losing custom of the more fickle clientele who may consider your whole company to be dated in comparison, just based on the design of your website. With an older website working in competition with a fresh-faced rival, you might also find your site slipping down the rankings on search engines, especially if it does not comply to new rules set out by the likes of Google.
Extending the lifespan of your website
Whilst I am not going to promise that these ideas will keep your website design alive for more than 6 years, they will help to keep it competitive over its 2 year average lifespan. There are several tips to consider when getting your website redesigned:
- Fresh Content: Don’t just copy and paste the text and images from your old site onto the new one (and never copy text from someone else's website) - they may have been part of the problem in the first place. Take the opportunity to streamline and modernise your content. I’m not saying you need to rewrite it entirely, but a little rejuvenation never hurt. Make sure your new website also has an easy to use content management system so that you can add or update content as you like.
- A little off the top: Take a look at the analytics for your website. Are there any pages that appear in your main navigation that are accessed much less than the others? If you find these pages aren’t being used by your viewers it is probably wise to either combine them with another page or simply drop them altogether. Websites with a small, simple navigation are much more aesthetically pleasing as well as much more user friendly.
- Evolution, not revolution: If you’re still in love with the core essence of your website’s design, or if it still follows your current brand identity, just evolving the design can be enough. Sometimes a radical redesign can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to brand recognition. Rearranging the bare bones of the site and updating the design for modern technologies might be an easier approach to take if you aren't keen on the idea of a fully-fledged redesign.
Whether your business direction, customers or recent technology have changed, it is a good idea to keep up with the changes with your website. Whilst web designers can only see so far ahead in terms of trends and technology, we will always do our best to ensure your website stays as future-proof as possible. Whilst some of the changes you would have to consider may sound like a lot of hard work and difficult choices, we will make the experience as hassle free as possible. We want you to be excited about your new website, not stressed! If you would like to update your website design, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us today.