"Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance." ― Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future
"We just launched this website, what do you mean I need an upgrade already?"
If this sounds familiar, it's because it happens all the time. Your company just made a significant investment in a major website redesign. You've got a new design, an upgraded content management system (CMS), improved content...the works. How long should this investment last? A year? Two years? Five years?
How about three to six months?
Slow down. I don't mean that you have to redesign your website again in three months. I mean that by then there will probably be a minor version update for your CMS. Or maybe somebody in another department thought of a new feature that will help you attract customers. These are minor updates, but you should still be prepared for the time and cost investment.
Technology is always changing, and your brand new website is not exempt from this fact. Let's look at some of the reasons you'll have to regularly update your website.
CMS: New update available
If you own a smart phone, you should be very familiar with how often it asks you to update the operating system or apps. Some apps seem to require updates every week. Well, your website is also software. If you're running a decent CMS, it gets updates from time to time. Of course, these updates aren't made as easy as pressing the install button. On a website, many updates may contain "breaking changes" that should be overseen by your development team in case something goes wrong.
Some CMS updates are minor and can be put off for a bit, but more important updates will eventually come out that you shouldn't ignore. Imagine if you ignored a major security update and your company website was hacked. The cost of the upgrade is well worth it to avoid a security risk like that.
New feature needed
Just because your website is new doesn't mean it has every feature you could ever have dreamed of or possibly needed. You should assume that your website will require new features to be added in the future.
Let's use a car analogy. Shopping for a car is a lot like buying a new website. You buy a car with as many features as you can fit inside your budget. If you can't afford leather seats, cloth it is. If they come out with flying cars next year, you don't get to go to the dealer and ask them to give you that feature since you just bought your car a little while ago.
Websites are the same. You build the best website with as many features that fit within your budget. Where websites are better than cars is in the ability to be upgraded. Most people don't upgrade to leather seats in the same car a year after owning it. With a website, you can (metaphorically speaking). This allows you to add a new feature when the need is justified and you have the budget for it.
Google changes something
Nobody likes this fact, but it's how things work. When Google changes something, websites often have to change to stay competitive. Google says secures sites get a rankings boost? Install an SSL certificate. Google says it prefers responsive sites? Redesign to be responsive. Google says it prioritizes fast-loading sites? Pay to make technical speed optimizations. If you don't, you start to get left out of the SEO game.
A third-party service your site relies on is no longer supported (or goes out of business)
Many sites utilize a third-party service to provide a function on their website. Features like customer service chat, site search, or an HR job application are frequently provided by third-party services. Sometimes those services go out of business or change drastically, which may require you replace or update the feature on your site.
Another major technological breakthrough
These are less common, but they do happen. Remember what I said earlier about technology always changing? Well, it's happening at an ever-increasing pace, so be prepared for something huge to shake up the state of your digital presence. Just think of how people had to scramble to adapt to the explosion of social media, or to smartphones. Next year it might be voice interfaces or virtual reality. Get ready to browse your website through a pair of goggles.
The best way forward?
Treat your website like a car (the analogy that keeps giving). If you change the oil and rotate the tires regularly, your car will last a lot longer. Make more frequent, smaller updates part of your plan. It can help defray costs in the long term. Don't just wait a few years until it is time for a full website tear down and rebuild. Those are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful.
Adjust your expectations. If you accept the points I laid out, it's much easier to understand the forces that demand when and how you must upgrade your website. You can forego some things, but you shouldn't ignore others. Consult with your website designer or developer, they can help you make the best decision for your needs.
Got a question about updating your website? Give us a call and we can talk you through it.