I often get asked variants of the following question:
- Does a website have a shelf life - Should I be looking to have a new site designed every year or so?
- How frequently should I overhaul my whole website?
- How often should I be updating my website?
Before getting to the short answer, there are several considerations as to why you should upgrade your website over a set period.
I think back to my first computer (ZX Spectrum) that had 16k of internal RAM.
In technology, there's a theory called Moore's law, which is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years and this has been so since the 1970s.
Every 2 years technology in computing has generally doubled.
With modern websites, there's much in the way of technology that allows them to load faster than two years ago. We all seem to have faster computers/devices, faster internet connections, better & more secure servers and web browsers are even helping speed up the internet too.
The problem with a slow loading website is that if your website is not fully loaded for your visitors in under 1-4 seconds, you're likely to lose your user/customer and they will look elsewhere.
There are new image formats, new ways of formatting HTML & CSS (the code that makes up a website) and new ways of delivering content to assist web servers.
Search Engine Ranking
Google's key value proposition is to provide good search results - and consequently, they have many (1000's) factors they look at regarding your website to figure out where it ranks in terms of importance.
If you're not updating your website regularly, search engines can assume that it must not be very important to you and therefore, it must not be important to others either.
Google & other search engines look at the way your website is formatted. If you don't update your website it will reflect old coding practices and this will be shown within your rankings.
If your using a CMS like Joomla, Wordpress or Drupal and it's not kept up to date, you may have missed a security update, which search engines will also know about.
This is the biggest point.
A website is not a one-time static entity. It should evolve as technology evolves and your business evolves and should be looked upon as your most valuable and most hardworking employee - It never takes a sick day and works 24/7 for you!
This is huge and if you get this, you'll be ahead of most of your competitors.
You should not view your website as a permanent solution. You're going to learn things about how your customers find and use your website. Take it upon yourself to find out that information to do another revision cycle on your website.
The short answer
So the short answer is - every 18 months to three years. That's about the amount of time we've seen for enough change to have happened in website design, content management systems, social networking, etc etc for a complete website redesign to be a reasonable investment.
But in between you should be keeping all software up to date, checking your server is working its best for you, utilising social media and keeping your website content up to date.
Even if the layout of your website works for you and your customers, technology will have moved on in the 2-3 years and a redesign will still be worth the investment. We've redesigned many websites recently that were not iPhone, iPad and mobile browser ready and although they look similar to the original site, the code that makes up the site is completely different, which will help with the issues mentioned above.
Change your website too often and you will confuse the search engine and probably annoy your users or customers who visit your site regularly. Change it to little and you're likely to be left behind as your competitors overtake you.