I’m going to get some stimulating responses from some corners of the digital marketing field for this one but it needs to be said. I’ve never shied away from calling out what I see to be the shady practices of tech, web dev and marketing, and I’ve even had some reasonably high profile people respond to me over it. Especially when there’s money involved. In this case we’re going to talk about pushing unnecessary web designs.
Do one Google search for “How often should I redesign my website” and you’ll instantly get thousands of results. It seems that just about every digital marketing firm and their dog has written an article on this. It just so happens that a lot of these articles have a direct link from the company plugging their own web design services. I wonder why that is!
These articles are so routine and copy from each other so liberally I could be convinced that a machine learning algorithm is pumping them out en masse. They make virtually the exact same points, often never citing anything:
-As a “general rule” you should update your website every 2-3 years
-You need to keep pace with developing trends
–You should hire us to do it because we really need new clients (There’s actually more to this than a joke but I’ll get to it later)
So let’s address this first point: Redesigning your website every 2-3 years. The obvious rebuttal is, according to what guideline or rubric? There’s no specific framework in place that determines how “old” a website truly is and none of these articles provide any kind of source for this metric. If you’ve future-proofed a solid WordPress or Magento website it can easily look just as fresh as launch day five years later. The opposite is true; a poorly designed WordPress template can look so archaic and dated that you’ll need a redesign in less than a year.
This is because this “redesign your website every 2-3 years” metric is as meaningless as it is vague. Redesigns are based off of a myriad of factors including the user experience, standards on a per-industry basis, what platform you’re using and how viable it is long-term, and overall business health.
So how often should you actually redesign your website? The simple answer is as often as you deem it necessary for the success of your business.
Ask yourself if a redesign is not just something you want, but something you need. Will it give you a look more in line with how you want to appear online? Will it make updating the website easier, or provide a better experience for visitors? That’s why you should be doing anything for your business.
What you shouldn’t be doing is potentially spending a lot of money on an artificially inflated sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) based on that #2 point, the idea that you’re missing out on trends.
I almost cringe every time I have to reiterate it, but it’s true. Whether it’s design-based trends or marketing-driven trends, your customers don’t give a crap about what specific “trendy” items you have on your website. They’re going to your website to learn more about you or otherwise begin the process of giving you money, or otherwise getting involved with you somehow. All they’re going to care about is whether or not it’s easy and efficient to do so.
Instead, think about what works for you. Especially because in a lot of situations you can work with your existing website or make smaller scale revisions to reflect a more aesthetic or “trendy” (if you must) look. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater with a full redesign.
Meanwhile, unless you’re actively pursuing dedicated SEO campaigns – a process which takes months and thousands of dollars – provided you’re on an SEO-friendly platform like WordPress most mechanical SEO does itself as long as your developer is up to speed depending on your target audience and where they’re located.
Now it’s time for me to address the simple truth of why digital marketing firms push this so much: Because they have a financial incentive to do so.
Virtually every single one of these articles implores you to contact them to inquire about design for whatever year the article was written. This is because it isn’t even really an article; it’s a self-insert organic advertisement at best. If you’re resourceful enough to search the blog history of a lot of these digital marketing firms, you may even find that they’ve rewritten the “Why you should redesign your website” article several times.
The fact of the matter is that every time you redesign your website, most digital marketing firms are making bank off it. Whether you’re a small mom and pop shop or a larger entity, every time you approach them about a redesign they often see lots of billable hours racked up or otherwise substantial project fees. The way a significant number of marketing firms work is to charge large fees up front and then
What’s especially strange about the 2 year redesign cycle is that it implies companies aren’t building their websites to last. Why wouldn’t you build a website to be responsive, adaptable or easy to manipulate? With WordPress, Shopify and other companies now the de-facto standards of web development it’s easier than ever to future-proof a website. I doubt companies are doing this deliberately but it’s certainly convenient that they’re constructing an almost smartphone-esque cycle where they’ll be able to do redesigns this often.
Because that’s the problem. Marketing companies need to acknowledge that they often push more expensive solutions because they stand to benefit first and foremost from it. It’s why so many companies pushed $10,000 mobile apps that they insisted your business would need in the 2010s and are now dead.
Make sure you’re redesigning your website when you need to and not because of some vague trend that tells you that you should. As for the marketing firms? Sell what your clients need. They’re your clients and they don’t just exist to fill your coffers.