A web design firm, a creative agency and a software vendor walk into a client’s office. The client asks, “How often should we redesign our website?” The agency replies “every two years.” The software guy says “every five years” The web designer says…
This isn’t a joke. I was actually in this meeting. There were eight people from four companies in the room. My answer at the time was four years. My standard answer has always been 2-5 years, depending on the industry. But that’s a big range.
Since then, we’ve done some research to really answer the question…
We took the top 200 marketing websites according to Alexa and looked them up in the Wayback Machine. We looked at the design and structure of each site over many years, and we determined the interval between major website redesigns for each site.
The average website lifespan is 2 years 7 months. Actually it was 2.66 years which is 2 years, 6 months and 27 days, but close enough.
About this dataset: First, we were honored to find our own site on the list. You’re reading one of the top 200 marketing sites right now! Also, note that these sites tend to be medium to larger businesses with marketing-focused products and services.
Surprised? We were. I expected the timeframe to be in the three to four year range.
But ask any expert about website lifespan and I promise you they’ll all say the same thing: “it depends.” But what does it depend on? Let’s look at the reasons why a website lives a long happy life, or gets old fast.
These are the main factors that determine how fast your site ages. Some are related to changes in your business. Others are about changes to the web and in visitors’ expectations.
Ask yourself each of these questions counting yeses and nos. The more time you answered yes, the more likely your site is showing its age.
Try this: pretend you are a potential lead or customer. Search for your product or services. Seriously, press pause on this blog post and go take a look! What did you see?
Your potential customers see those rankings and those websites many times every day. While you are reading this, at this very moment, someone is looking at those search results and those websites.
Old and new in that context. It’s all relative.
There are ways to take months or years off the look of your website. Here are a few tricks to reversing the aging process:
Caution: If you’re planning a redesign within a year, don’t invest a lot in your current site. The value of any change is relative to the cost. See our Guide for Prioritizing Website Changes for more info.
Ever heard someone say this? They’re so embarrassed of their web design that they don’t want anyone to see it. They want to hide their most important marketing asset. At this stage, the website is actually hurting the business.
This is the end. It’s time to pull the plug.
When you, your business or your visitors change, your website ages. It’s old as soon as it’s out of sync with your business and is not getting you those measurable results. Keep it as young and fresh as possible, but be ready to make the tough decision to redesign. And when you do, think ahead as far as possible.
My feeling is that as a tutor I want to keep my website looking the same as it was five years ago. I find wix management tools diabolical (having been trained to use Dreamweaver) – with all the components jangling about instead of fixed, The people who do the paying are either my generation or the one above, in their 60s/70s – the last thing they want is a website that changes every two years. I hate the new style of just large photos and films (schools etc).
I have a crazy question – can you please finish the joke about the ‘web designer says…’ ? It seems perfect for my presentation but I can’t find the ending for it. thanks so much!
Hi, Olya. It’s not really a joke. It’s a true story! The post itself is the answer to the question. 🙂
When people ask me, I often say 3 years max for design and tech companies. 5 years max for companies in sleepy industries where things don’t change as often. Intervals can be shorter if the website is never touched post-launch. Intervals can be extended if the company keeps the content fresh and makes design enhancements along the way.
I like the beauty analogy in the tips – certainly as businesses evolve, the content has to evolve too, not necessary the whole code underneath. And I agree about the “please don’t look at our site” comments – Given the BOPIS and BORIS age we are in now, thoughts on one’s site should trigger a savvy small business or marketer to think creatively about how a site’s content aids the customers. It should set expectations.
Agree, agree, agree…but how do I show justification for spending money on the facelift?
Very interesting, thanks for sharing! We’re already doing the “Face Lift” (and had similar concerns about the homepage no longer matching the rest of the site), but the “Haircut” is definitely being considered for the future. Great article!
Good for you, Grace! The facelift and haircut go well together. I recommend getting the haircut first because it’s faster and cheaper…
As always, valuable information! Bookmarked it for the future.
Nice to see you here, Colleen. I hope all is well in CLE!
Another fine post. You’re batting 1000.
Thanks, Roger! I’m glad you’re enjoying this. But if I showed you the Analytics for our blog, you’d see that most of these aren’t homeruns. 🙂
I’m really surprised by that. To me, it’s as if you spun these words out of pure gold.
What are your thoughts?