What is the average lifespan of a website?

22nd Jan 2024

What is the average lifespan of a website? Much like many physical assets, over time it will become less effective and out-of-date as it ages.

The Lifespan of a Website

Your website is often one of the first points of contact that a potential customer might have with you and your business. A website is your 24/7 digital shop window, and an opportunity to create a great first impression. It’s an investment, but, much like many physical assets, over time it will become less effective and dated as it gets older, so it will require reinvestment on a regular basis.

Realnet takes pride in having several very long term clients, who have stayed with us because we will always find the best option for their business. It might be a complete website redesign and build, but very often, ongoing updates and digital marketing are made to prolong the life of the website and make the best of their digital budget.

If you aren’t sure what you might need to do about your current website, we have a few points below that might help you to work out what you need to do.

What is the average lifespan of a website?

Everything in the digital world moves very quickly. There are no hard and fast rules about how a long a website should last, but, on average, a website can last a maximum of four, maybe five years before starting to experience technical issues. In design terms, a website will start to look dated after three years.

It also depends on the nature of the industry you are in and where your organisation sits within it.

  • You’re a market leader in a fast-moving or competitive sector – this is when you will need to refresh or redesign your website most frequently, possibly even annually to keep things exciting and engaging for customers.
  • You operate in a competitive industry – your website should be refreshed every 2-3 years.
  • Anyone else – After four or more years, you really should look into upgrading your website.

We’re really not here to do a hard-sell, there are quite a few ways in which a refresh or rebuild could benefit your website, read on to find out why:

First Impressions Matter

Web Design

Website Design follows trends. An average internet user probably wouldn’t be able to identify anything specific that looks out-of-date on a website, but they will know when something looks generally dated.

Visitors will see your website as a reflection of your organisation, so if it delivers clear messages, is full of useful, up-to-date information and well-structured, they will think that your organisation is the same. But if it looks out-of-date, or is inconsistent or hard to interact with, that will be how you look to them. If your website looks dated or doesn’t provide a great user-experience, you could be losing clients before they even begin to explore your products or services.

Usability

We talk about user-experience a lot at Realnet. This is a combination of structure, speed, navigability and appearance. Someone landing on your website should know immediately what it is about, and have a clear pathway to achieve their goal easily. Someone with less clarity should be able to easily find enough information to work out what they need, or else ask for and receive assistance swiftly.

Functionality

Quite simply, does your website work?

  • Are all of the pages available through logical navigation?
  • Are there broken links?
  • Is your Content Management System and / or Theme still supported?
  • Is the under-lying technology up-to-date?
  • Is it secure?

Every year web standards change, and website building practices develop to comply with the latest standards. If your website was designed several years ago, it could contain unnecessary or obsolete code, slowing it down, and consequently impacting your search engine rankings.

Speed

Does your website load quickly? We’ve all experienced a website that doesn’t load quickly, and we might well have given up and gone elsewhere as a result. You have 2-4 seconds to engage a visitor, and if your website does not load quickly, that is not a good use of that time.

A lot of factors affect website speed, including the hosting and supporting technology as well as the design and optimisation of everything from the code to the images and media.

Loading speed has always been important, but has become even more so since Google started to predominantly use mobile-first indexing in 2016. This means that the mobile version of a website’s content is crawled with a smartphone agent for indexing and ranking. For this reason, many website designers take a mobile-first approach to website design.

Device Compatibility

Also called responsive design and mobile friendly design, but there is so much more to it than that, and it ties in with many of the other factors affecting the effectiveness of your website. Your potential customers now access the internet from continually growing range of platforms, browsers and devices, from desktops, to smartphones and smart TVs, all of which will display your website a little bit differently.

Speed comes into it again here; all of the different devices a visitor might use are subject to data speed limitations dependant on their connection.

An older website might not cope with all of these as well as a more recently designed one.

Content

A website redesign can be a great opportunity to re-address how you communicate with your visitors. The design of a website should always be content-led, grabbing someone’s attention and directing them towards further useful information.

Fresh and unique website content is important as well, to encourage people to revisit your site, and to aid with SEO. Aim to be a authority in your field, by providing useful, easy-to-understand information. This will build trust around your brand, making you memorable to your clients to tempt them back again and again.

Perhaps new information, services or product categories have been added onto the website on the fly, when this happens full consideration isn’t always given to how it relates to existing content and things can start to look messy. Maybe an unexpected part of your organisation has become the new focus and the website needs to reflect this. A website redesign is a great opportunity to put emphasis on the right aspects of your business for now and the future.

Original Images

A dated website will often rely heavily on stock photography, at best it can look disjointed, as they will be of different places and people. At worst it will make you look as if you have something to hide about yourselves!

Stock photography can be fine, if used sparingly, but internet users are increasingly savvy and a lot of it now looks cheesy or unoriginal and dated. Your own photographs make your organisation look more legitimate, it’s a true depiction of you and your products or services.

Professional photography is not cheap, but it will be an investment that you can use effectively for several years, across all of your promotional materials, not just your website.

Effective calls to action

Calls to Action are the prompts around a website used to guide users to the content they need. The problem with these, is that the general public are constantly bombarded with adverts and content designed to distract and tempt them, so the thinking around these changes regularly. ‘Click Here’ links, just don’t cut it anymore!

Once you have engaged a visitor, is there a clearly highlighted action for them to take as a next step? Is the Call to Action relevant to their intent? Is it eye-catching and interesting enough to persuade them?

Measuring Effectiveness

Is your website an effective tool, aiding you in achieving your main goals? Are your website visitors turning into leads? What aspects of your website are the most effective at lead generation? There are an assortment of tools available to measure and track activity on your website.

This is an area that has changed a lot in the last couple of years with changes to online privacy laws and an increased awareness of privacy and tracking among the general public. This is definitely an area that an older website will need to update.

SEO

If you don’t update your website at all, it’s sure to drop in search engine rankings. Search engines regard websites with regularly added relevant content as the most useful.

A redesign gives you a prompt to rethink your keywords and target market. Search trends and the way people search has changed dramatically over the last few years, with different demographics showing distinctly different behaviours too.

Security

If you keep all of your IT equipment, services and software up-to-date, you reduce your cyber-security risk, and your website is no different. A website hacking incident can be catastrophic to a business. More than just a website going offline for a while, customer data can be compromised, money can be lost, and your whole business operation disrupted.

A properly set up website that is running the most up-to-date versions of everything, on a secure server is far less likely to succumb to such problems.

Is there a way to future-proof my website?

The short answer is no. Things change quickly in everything digital, and there is never going to be a substitute for regular updates, upgrades, or, less frequently, a complete redesign or overhaul. Much like a car that doesn’t get serviced regularly, your website will start to play up, or even break down if you neglect it.

Having a well-supported CMS like WordPress as the foundation for your website can help ensure that you never have to start over completely. With careful planning and regular attention, your website can lead a long life as a very hard-working business tool.

Conclusion

It can be easy to be a bit complacent about a website that is still ‘doing its job’, but refreshing or redesigning your website is a great opportunity to take a step back and really consider whether it is still a working effectively towards your key business goals.

A website should never really be considered a finished thing. Your business or organisation will be constantly changing and adapting to the demands placed upon it and your website needs to change and adapt with it.

In conclusion, if you haven’t updated your website in a while, you could be putting off potential customers from first contact. So if your site is more than three years old, there is a good chance you are due for an upgrade.

Realnet is an established Cambridge digital agency, we have been helping all sorts of organisations with their online presence since 1998. From website design and ecommerce to digital marketing and PPC campaigns.

Contact us to make your website work harder for you.