How Long will my Website Last?

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“How long will my website last?” a new customer recently asked me. Truth is, we are living in a very different world today in web development than just a few years ago. As a result, my answer to this question has changed significantly over time.

Back eight to 10 years ago, Dreamweaver was the tool of choice for web design. Sites typically lasted four to six years, or longer. The only reason to update was to make the appearance look more modern, or to accommodate for changes in company structure that significantly impacted the navigation or brand messaging on the website. I look back on these times with fond nostalgia. Though we didn’t know it then, life as a web developer was so simple in those days!

Then change started happening faster and faster. WordPress and Joomla replaced Dreamweaver as the tools of choice for building websites. In 2007, the iPhone was born – just a year after Red Sage launched its first few websites.

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A seismic shift in technology

Within five short years, by 2012, market penetration of smartphones in North America reached 77.1%. This new technology created a HUGE seismic shift in how people accessed and used websites.

Responsive programming, programming that automatically adapts website layouts to different devices, came out in 2012, but didn’t hit WordPress and Joomla templates reliably until early 2014.

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The bottom-line conclusion, because everyone and their sister now have a smartphone, is that websites that were built just two or three years ago before responsive programming started to mature are now obsolete from a technology standpoint.

Website hacking goes mainstream

As if change related to mobile technology wasn’t enough, the other seismic shift in the web world was the advent of hacking into websites. Yep. Hacking. Yep, even small business websites. According to a blog written by James Lyne for Forbes, as many as 30,000 websites per day get hacked. PER DAY.

Open source sites like WordPress and Joomla are attractive targets for hackers because the majority of sites don’t get updated over time and are easy targets. Hackers want to inject malware scripts to infect as many computers as possible so they can infect other computers and gather personal data automatically. They also like to inject scripts that redirect visitors to other sites, such as sites that serve malware or porn sites. Your website can help a hacker unlock access to thousands of others.

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The best way to keep a website as secure from hacking as possible is to update ALL of its site files, regularly! Websites built with WordPress and Joomla include:

  • Core WordPress or Joomla software files
  • Template or Theme files
  • PlugIns – like image rotators, blogs, etc.

ALL of these files have to stay updated over time. You cannot rely solely on the Joomla and WordPress auto updates to the core software to keep your site safe.

What the future holds for your website

So circling back to the original question about how long a website will last, the good news is that a website may actually last a lot longer than it used to – IF it is kept updated over time.

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I am starting to see a path where it will no longer be normal to pay a large amount for a full website rebuild as has been typical in the past to keep your site fresh. Instead, there will be smaller incremental updates where either the core software is updated, or the template files are replaced and you get a new design while keeping the same navigation and content programming intact.

In other words, if your site navigation does not change and your content stays updated, you end up avoiding the full cost of a complete rebuild. Instead you can expect to perform smaller incremental upgrades that include a new template and design appearance every few years for your site to keep it fresh and compatible with technology changes over time AND safer from hacking.

Not sure if your website is getting updated proactively? Give us a call and we can look at it and talk through your options.

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