Jon Peterson | June 23, 2016
How long do websites last?
In a 1996 interview in the WWW Journal, Tim Berners-Lee, chief inventor of the web technologies, said: "What is a web year now, about three months?” That was 20 years ago and got me thinking – what is a web year now?
No doubt you’ve heard the theory that one human year is equal to seven dog years. But, what’s the equation as it relates to your website? It’s true dogs age at different rates than humans, but the generally accepted rule of one to seven isn’t always accurate.
There are many factors that play into how fast any dog will age, including their breed, size, and weight. In the same way, there are many factors that will affect the rate at which a website ages, such as its code, functionality, framework, and design.
Taking into account how hard it is to quantify how far technology has come over the last 20 years, we’ll say, hypothetically, that one human year is equal to about 18 website years. At this rate, in five years a website would be the equivalent of 90 human-years old, and most likely in need of rebuilding or at least redesigning.
Below are three factors that will naturally cause your website to age and no longer accurately represent your business online.
Picture your current website for a moment – when it first launched it met your needs and was a great tool that supported your business goals, over time, however, the website has evolved into something that works against you. Technology is changing at an accelerated rate, and trying to keep up with all the latest advancements can be confusing and intimidating. It’s impossible to predict what new digital technologies will be available a year from now, or five years, but, odds are at that time you’ll need to rebuild and take advantage of them to help grow your business.
2. Responsive Design
There are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users, but unfortunately many websites aren’t optimized for mobile devices. Even five years ago, only companies with endless budgets could afford to create responsive websites, but now with more advanced front-end frameworks, fluid grid concepts and modern CSS, responsive design is more accessible than ever.
Half of all mobile users will abandon a web page if it takes more than 10 seconds to load, so if your website isn’t mobile friendly that customer is going somewhere else fast. On top of that, new digital devices with different screen sizes make it even more important that your website be able to adapt to any screen size for the best user experience possible.
3. Your Company
As your company grows and changes over time, the needs and goals of your business are likely to change as well, but reflecting those changes on your website can be a whole different story. Your content management system (CMS) will allow you to update content on your site, but, over the course of five years, you’ll likely want to make some updates beyond the control of the CMS. And, if your website wasn’t built in a scalable framework (the technology behind building a website) that can handle an update, your existing code base will eventually expand to the point where bugs and errors will start occurring more and more frequently. Once this happens, rebuilding the website will always be your best course of action.
So how long do websites last? I’d say around five human years (or, you know, roughly 13 dog years).