It can be a bit of a shock to hear that your website needs a (paid) overhaul.

You think to yourself “but I have been paying for support and upkeep all along”.

You may be tempted to treat this like a cash grab, or assume that something wasn’t done right the first time. But contrary to a lot of online scams out there, the Rebuild/Redesign can be one of the most important steps for your website’s long term health and effectiveness.

Read on to learn when an upgrade is urgent and essential.

Websites Don’t Last Forever

Have you ever heard of “Planned Obsolescence”?

That is when a dastardly multinational company manufacturers the cheapest possible product, and deliberately engineers it to stop working after a certain period of time.

This usually happens about three days after the warranty expires!

Well, this is not really what’s going on with websites. It certainly happens with a lot of consumer products you already use. So we can see why you’d be a little skeptical when it comes to yet another bill.

But if you can take one thing away from this article, it’s that websites — no matter how good they look, how well they convert, how high they are on search results, or how pleased you are with them — will require occasional upgrades.

And we’re not talking about switching out some pictures or adding a fancy Buy Now button.

This is about structural, technical, sometimes platform-based updates.

And the truth is that it’s one of the hardest things for web designers to explain to their clients.

Because it involves so many difficult and complex conversations, most providers (unwisely) leave it until it gets so bad there is no other choice.

Then the interaction goes something like:

Something is broken on my website.

Well, I can’t fix it without rebuilding, because the whole site is out of date…

Why is it breaking? Didn’t you do it right the first time???

And sometimes these talks go so poorly, with such miscommunication all around, that the client ends up cancelling their service and finding a new provider. Of course, the new provider gets to rebuild the website (effectively doing what the old provider recommended), but to the client the new guy “saved” them from the old “scammy” guy.

The easiest way to explain it is that it’s somewhat like your cell phone.

Although there is some planned obsolescence with the way that cellphone hardware is manufactured, let’s focus on the software of the phone for a minute.

Even if you accept every update to your cell phone over the years, it will get noticeably slower and less reliable.

At some point, it won’t even work with the new hot app you want to download. It may even start to bug out when you just want to upgrade an existing app.

In many cases there is simply load and use on the phone. But most of the time it’s due to emerging technology that couldn’t have even been predicted when the phone was made.

All this other tech that you want to interface with on your phone, it’s too far ahead of when the phone was built, and no amount of updates will correct that.

So you start wrestling with a more and more frustrating phone experience, and hopefully replace it before you have a full-on potato on your hands.

Obviously, your company website can’t get run down like that before it starts to really mess with your business.

Reasons To Upgrade Your Website

Now that you expect the occasional website rebuild, what are some of the reasons or warning signs that you need to do it sooner rather than later?

We want to stress, at this point, a redesign is not about a cosmetic change.

You don’t need to chase the hottest new web design trends. In fact, for a small business you can usually just ignore them altogether because they rarely have any effect on your bottom line.

No, this is about keeping your site from becoming obsolete.

So we’ve put together a handy chart that you can scan through quickly. It will help you understand if you really need a complete overhaul, or if someone is just trying to scare you and bleed more cash out of you for no good reason.

You have new photos or events or products or services to talk about. NO
These are just basic content updates
Your company has rebranded. NO
Simply switch in new logo and colors
You can no longer edit the site yourself, or editing has become very slow/buggy. YES
The site is not mobile-friendly / responsive. YES
Simple content/branding updates are impossible for your provider, or very costly, or take a long time to execute. YES
If it’s impossible to do basic updates to your site, that’s a sign that the tech is outdated
You feel your website needs a new look “just because”. NO
Your website looks like it was built in the 90s (or it actually was built in the 90s). YES
Your site is noticeably slow to load. YES
You want to downgrade from a complicated/ecommerce site to a simple site — or — you need a lot more features on your current site. MAYBE
This depends on your site platform & your provider
Your plugins are no longer compatible with your theme or your theme is no longer updating.
* this is for WordPress sites only

On that final note:

WordPress is a robust, cost-effective, scalable solution for most small business websites. That’s why we love it, and recommend it.

But it requires even more vigilance when it comes to upgrades/rebuilds.

The core of WordPress has to stay up to date. That’s for security mostly, but also to keep it useful.

From there, any core updates may affect the theme (which is like the skin and formatting of the site).

And finally, the plugins (which are like the extra features — for photo galleries, forms, or even more fancy stuff) have to work with all these core and theme updates.

Without getting too into the weeds, this is why we always recommend a minimal number of very popular and well-supported plugins on any WordPress site. Less things to break, and higher chance of a quality plugin getting an update to accommodate a new version of WordPress core.

But anyway, once one of these factors becomes outdated, you have the choice between upgrading or letting your website eventually implode.

Probably a no-brainer.

How Often Should You Redesign Your Company’s Website?

I wish we had a hard-and-fast answer for you…

But as you can tell so far, there are a few moving parts. So we’ll give you at least a good indication of when you should take action in the future.

Since this article has been about necessary technical upgrades, we won’t talk about cosmetic visual stuff like rebranding. Like we already said, most rebrands should be doable as a basic update on the existing platform, with the existing site structure.

Properly judging when a site needs a true rebuild is a task for both you and your provider.

In your case, you can check the site every so often on a desktop computer and a mobile phone. Just see how it looks, how easy it is to navigate, check if anything is broken or a pain to use.

As to your provider, they should have some kind of defense plan for your site.

At Websites.ca, we do a scheduled yearly review of each client’s website, with the client on the phone.

That way it holds all our feet to the fire to make sure nothing is falling out of place.

Now there is one great indicator of when to do a website overhaul…

Like our cell phone example at the start, you can pay attention to when you hear about huge changes to the industry or with technology in general.

Remember when the first iPhone came out? It became so easy to browse the internet on your mobile phone. That was a MAJOR sign that a business website would need a redesign within the next year or so.

Luckily, these types of changes don’t happen overnight.

The adoption and use of any major new technology is typically a slow process. But once you are aware of it, and once you start hearing your friends talking about it, it’s time to at least consider an overhaul.

Other than that, you can use the chart above to help guide you.

After all this, if you suspect your site needs a rebuild on a more modern platform, and your provider is not capable of handling it, or if they want too much money to do so, maybe we should talk.

Websites.ca can rebuild nearly any existing Canadian business site on the latest, most secure version of WordPress… and we’ll do it at no charge.

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