Website redesign: how long will your next site last?

Most websites we build at Kula are redesigns of previously existing sites. Sometimes we’re building the fifth or sixth iteration of a site, sometimes the second. Some of these redesigns are due to limiting or non-existent content management systems. Some companies need to rebrand. Almost all use dated front end coding techniques that don’t work as well as they used to, often because the web browsers we’re using now didn’t even exist when those sites were designed.

One thing is certain, the web is a constantly changing medium and the pace of change is accelerating. The website redesign you completed in 2009 is not only looking dated at this point, chances are good that the underlying technology may also be out of step. Are you still rocking an animated Flash header graphic, or did you have your web designer strip that out and replace it with a Javascript-based image slider at some point?

A quick look at ten sites we’re redesigning for clients now shows that the median age of the site we’ll be replacing is about three to four years old. Let’s think about this for a second. Four years ago, the iPad didn’t exist, nor did any of its competing Android or Windows tablets. The iPad was only released in April of 2010. The iPhone was still the only smartphone in widespread use with a decent web browser. Our analytics tell us that less than 1% of web traffic was coming from mobile devices. We’re now seeing some sites that have a quarter to a half of their traffic coming from mobile. In the next three years, how much will this change? The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know what’s coming next.

So, how do you contend with this rapid pace of change? The cost of developing a website certainly isn’t going down. Are you developing a website that will be a platform for growth, lead capture and interaction with your customers, or are you creating a cost centre that will need to be redeveloped prematurely after only a few years when it no longer meets your needs?

Building a website using responsive web design doesn’t mean you won’t need to rejig things in three or four years. Responsive design follows the principles of web standards and also lays a solid foundation for creating accessible websites that all users can enjoy. It’s not perfect–no technology ever is, but it provides the basis for a website redesign you can live with, one that will, by its very nature, adapt to future devices and interaction styles. A few years back, a colleague had visited the US and brought back a Kindle Fire, at the time, one of the only Android-powered small tablets. We immediately fired up the browser and tested The site worked and looked exactly as we would have hoped, having adapted to the new device’s screen. Are you able to say that about your recent website redesign as new device after device floods the market?

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