I get asked this question quite a bit: How long before your website design becomes “old”?
If you are craigslist, the answer is never. Or maybe right away. (C’mon craigslist, at least change your fonts and link colors!)
But for the rest of us with a desire to have a fresh design that doesn’t become a popular meme of awfulness, it’s a good question. In the past my answer has always been roughly two years*, but really it depends on a number of factors.
Know your audience
For me as a web designer/developer, launching a new design every year could be beneficial. I need to show that I understand modern trends and concepts. Prior to my re-launch last month, I had the same design for about a year and a half. That really seemed too long as I felt that the 2010 design was incredibly outdated.
For a small business, the site design could easily last for three years without seeming too old. Ultimately it’s going to depend on the visitors of your site and what they expect. If none of your visitors are on iPads, then that big Flash slider on your homepage that was all the rage three years ago is no big deal. But if you do see a number of iOS devices in your analytics, know that none of them will see that big fancy slider (iOS can’t display Flash) so you’d better start thinking about a re-design.
How’s your content?
I also think that being able to keep your content up-to-date can make a difference. Maybe your overall site design is a bit dated but you post to the blog on a regular basis. Visitors to your site will see that at least something on your site is current and it will feel more active to them. For example: Guy Kawasaki’s blog. The design is basic overall but the look and feel is very “Web 2.0” (circa 2006 or so). He’s using the Trebuchet MS font, a staple of Web 2.0. However, Guy blogs a lot. His content is relevant. It helps me look past the dated-ness of the design (we’ll call it “vintage”) simply because his content is so fresh and compelling.**
Key point: if you’ve got a dated design and a site that never gets updated, you’re in trouble. But if you keep it updated with fresh content you can buy yourself some time.
On a final note, one thing I love about using WordPress for all of the sites I develop is that future redesigns are that much easier. Crafting a new website design can happen without having to re-do the entire collection of site content. The content is all housed in the WordPress database and I simply need to develop a new theme on top. The process becomes so much more streamlined.
How old is YOUR website? Is it dated but relevant? Is it time for a redesign?
Vintage kitchen image by Flickr user SportSuburban
* This is the same answer I give when people ask me about the lifespan of a computer. I buy “new every two” just like the average mobile phone plan.
** Guy, if you’re reading this, I love you. Enchantment was one of the best books that I read in 2011. Let’s get you off of Typepad and onto WordPress. :)