Website longevity

Some longer-established businesses are website redesign veterans, having commissioned several website redesign projects, hopping from one web design agency to the next as they go.

As a result decision makers can sometimes feel disillusioned, and that they are constantly being told that their website needs to be redesigned. These voices of dissent can originate from inside the organisation or from external sources, and they may be voiced even before the dust has settled on a brand new website launch.

Web design and development is a very fast moving industry, and every so often a genuinely superior approach, technique or tool comes along and as web designers, we feel it's our duty to ensure our clients are able to benefit from these advances.

For example, "responsive web design" was a term first coined by Ethan Marcotte in May 2010, and since then many websites have been redesigned to follow a responsive web design approach, ensuring the website displays across mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Google was quick to spot the improved user experience that responsive websites provided and encouraged website owners to make their websites responsive by favouring them in the search results.

A few years later in 2013, Craft CMS emerged onto the scene and broke new ground in terms of what a content management system could be. It allowed us to build websites with far greater speed and ease, and also enabled us to place more control of the websites we built into the hands of our clients, which meant real savings in terms of the ongoing cost of maintaining a website. Craft also accomplished all of this with a level of ease-of-use that was a revelation for site editors and made client training sessions a breeze.

Over this time we've also seen the slow but steady demise of Flash, and many websites that had elements of Flash have needed to repurpose these into native web technologies that enjoy wider browser/device support, such as HTML5 and JavaScript. Whilst we're on the subject, over a similar period coding best practices have shifted towards the newer HTML5 and CSS3 languages.

Google is constantly advancing best practices for the design and development of websites and with lucrative search rankings at stake, keeping pace with these recommendations is a worthwhile exercise. Google advocates performance best practices via it's PageSpeed metric and recent initiatives such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Google has also encouraged web designers to include more machine readable data within web pages via Structured Data, and currently recommends this additional semantics is provided via JSON-LD, shifting away from previous methods such as Microdata and RDFa.

Along with these advances in web design approach and content management systems, one of the most frequent reasons that can prompt a website redesign is changing design tastes. I'm still fond of the fact that one of our longest lasting web designs, for Victor Hall Antiques, lasted for 9 whole years (delighting visitors from 2006 to 2015). When we were commissioned to complete a redesign in 2015 the existing design, albeit feeling dated by then, had almost taken on an antique quality of its own which perfectly suited the website's subject matter!

Lastly, a redesign can often be prompted a by a shift in priorities of the organisation it serves. An organisation may broaden or focus it's offering, and the website needs to change to better serve those new requirements.

Coming back to the topic of website longevity, we can't guarantee that there isn't another big change in the world of web design just around the corner, such as the shift to responsive web design that emerged in 2010.

But key to achieving greater longevity from a website is a deepening relationship with your website design agency. Forging a relationship that doesn't just extend to a redesign every few years but rather an ongoing monthly relationship of constant improvement and refinement. This removes the need to undertake large scale redesigns, and instead the website gradually evolves over a longer period of time and constantly keeps pace with the organisation it serves.

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Michael Walsh by Michael Walsh