When should you rebuild your website?

Outdated websites can be harmful to your business's bottom line, but when is the right time to replace your website

November 26th, 2021

9 min read
Dan Spratling
Dan Spratling

Last updated

December 8th, 2021

It doesn't matter if you're a billion-dollar business, small local company, or solo freelancer; an eCommerce company, SaaS, nonprofit, or something else. Your website is where your customers start their purchase journey, so it's essential to get it right.

But your business isn't static, it changes and grows over time, and that means you'll be changing your website too. Making content updates, adding blog posts, and improving functionality. Your website has to work effectively for everyone, from your customers to your team.

But the more time and money you've spent on your website, the less likely you are to want to start over.

Technologies move forward at an astounding rate, and as your business grows, you've got to be ready to take advantage of that. You can't afford to get left behind.

Your website will probably need a rebuild if it's failing in one of these areas:

  • if your users are getting lost and not converting as expected
  • if your editors can't add or update content without help
  • if your developers take too long to make code changes

Simplify your marketing workflow

Your marketing team is constantly releasing new content and making updates to older content (or they should be), and it's essential to make their job as straightforward as possible. Whether you're creating campaigns for different holidays or are regularly writing blogs for SEO impact, you need an excellent editing experience.

Developing your brand

As your site grows, so does your brand. Over time you will find that your brand messaging has changed, especially when considering old content that hasn't been updated in years.

It may not just be content that you feel you've outgrown, but your entire brand image. It's only natural for your design to reflect your values.

When this happens, you'll find that your website will need a significant change. That will probably mean a rebuild.

Changing your audience

As your company grows, you may also find that your audience changes. Maybe you're niching and becoming more targeted, creating products for different audiences to expand your reach, or changing directions entirely.

When this happens, you'll find that you'll need to adapt your brand to match your new goals. This could mean a content rewrite, rebranding, or a total rebuild.

Whatever your issue, a change in audience is a common problem that often prompts a redesign. Now you need to update your content and maybe even branding to focus on your new target audience.

Improving your editor experience

As your company grows and your strategy matures, you'll need to edit content more. That means a team of copywriters and editors who can quickly get content out on the website.

If your team is struggling to add new products, write blog posts or make changes to existing content on your website without the help of developers, it's likely your Content Management System (CMS) is holding you back.

It's essential to choose the best CMS for your needs. There are many great options to choose from, but you need to pick one that works with your specific workflow.

Rebuilding your website with a specialized CMS will significantly improve your team's workflow, saving time when adding and updating content.

Improving User Experience

Your users are the center of your business, so you have to serve their needs. How you do that will depend on your customers, your target market, and how you want to be perceived. Your customers' experience will always be a core part of your online strategy, so it's necessary to get it right.

Redesign your customer experience

Your customer's experience starts with your website. So if your find that most of your customers ignore your website or are trying to use your website but can't reach their goals, it's time to look at what you could do to fix that.

A redesign of your customer-facing website will often provide a fresh look and feel, enticing customers to engage more with your website. It'd be also an excellent opportunity to research what your users are primarily trying to do and help provide a better solution.

Make your website faster.

We've all run into websites that load slowly. We've also all heard that every second your website takes to load loses 7% of your users. Slow loading is frustrating, and your users know it best, so it's essential to make sure your entire website loads as quickly as possible.

Suppose you have a global business targeting many different countries. Then it's even more important to achieve higher speeds as some countries still rely on 3G or don't have a dedicated network built for fast internet.

There are many reasons why performance bottlenecks can build up, but if your website is slow, you need to fix it, or your customers will go somewhere else.

Our preferred solution is to work with the Jamstack, which removes many of the performance bottlenecks you might usually run into. Whatever approach best suits your business, be sure to prioritize the performance of your website.

Don't forget about mobile

Yes, I know it's 2021, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that every website worked on mobile. But you might (or might not) be surprised to hear that there are still many websites that don't work on mobile!

Mobile is more important than ever. With more people owning mobile phones than desktop computers and around 60% of website traffic coming from phones, you have to pay attention to your mobile visitors.

Google knows the importance of mobile too. Last year Google switched to mobile-first search analysis, which means that if your site isn't responsive, you won't get nearly as much search traffic (even when searching on desktop).

Changing your site to focus on mobile users is essential for a competitive website and making your customers much happier.

Make development easier

If you want to make changes to your website but can't, development complexity is probably the culprit preventing you from doing so.

Development is expensive and, when set up the wrong way, can be a massive bottleneck for making even simple changes, making critical tasks fall behind, and your whole schedule slows down.

Revisiting your development approach and making improvements to simplify builds for your developers can relieve bottlenecks and speed up development time make growing your website traffic far easier.

Upgrading from outdated technologies

One of the biggest things holding back technological growth in many companies is hanging on to outdated tech. This doesn't necessarily mean that old technology is wrong, but change happens fast, and it's easy to fall behind, missing out on all the benefits brought to you by modern web standards.

In the last 5 years, we've seen the rise of Single Page Applications, which have evolved to provide better performance and a simpler development workflow with frameworks like Nextjs, Gatsby, Nuxt, and Sveltekit. 

To grow your website fast and flexibly, utilizing the Jamstack is critical. Separating your technologies into their individual concerns allows your business to focus on improvements in specific areas without worrying about knock-on effects in other areas. This kind of specialization simplifies how your software communicates, making it easier to deliver more futureproofed results.

Switching to Jamstack is a phenomenon happening across the web. Ecommerce websites are being powered by more and more specialist tools, like Next, Shopify, and Stripe - all different services linked together through the Jamstack.

By switching to modern technologies, you allow your developers to focus on the areas they're good at, reducing mistakes and delivering better results.

Reducing technical debt

It's no secret that most companies have some kind of technical debt. We often make compromises to allow features to be delivered on time or on budget. Sometimes this debt can show up as bugs. Other times, it prevents us from making changes easily or adding functionality as quickly as we'd like. Once debt builds up, it can be hard to get rid of.

If you're struggling to make code changes because of technical debt, sometimes it's easier to start over. But doing this is pointless if you don't set yourself up for success. The last thing you want to do after rebuilding is to have the same thing happen again in a year.

You need to ensure that your process provides the support necessary for your developers to do the best job and set your code up for future success. This often means allowing more time for changes upfront to reduce the time updates will need in the long run.

Adding automated tests into your workflow is a great way to ensure that code changes always function as expected without side effects, even in future updates. Building these into your workflow can help provide a better review process by clearly showing if something is broken. This allows the reviewer to give better feedback and trains your developers to work more effectively while thinking about the long-term effects of their changes.

Creating a seamless process amongst the team can also help streamline changes in the future by helping designers, project managers, and other stakeholders understand how developers work best so you can continue to get the best results.

Adding new functionality

Making changes to your website is hard enough. A successful company needs to change its website easily and adapt to new approaches the business wants to take. This often requires adding new functionality to your website, like new help articles, docs pages, testimonials, and more.

So when it's time to make changes, you want to choose what works best for you. Working with vendors like WordPress can seem like a simple option now, but you might regret not taking a more flexible approach when you're locked into their plugin ecosystem.

We recommend Jamstack websites because of their flexibility. Separating concerns makes it very easy to add new functionality where you need it, whether that be a store, a payment provider, or something else. If it exists, you can probably use it.

Mobile apps are a great example of why Jamstack can help your business quickly adapt to new opportunities. Having your data in a single place and accessible from multiple sources means that your app and website sync automatically when your data updates. Using a Jamstack approach means you can easily add new ideas like Apps, PWAs, link multiple websites, or even allow others to use your data with minimal effort.

What are the risks?

Completely overhauling your entire website isn't risk-free, despite the advantages that can come from making such a shift. The good news is that these risks are easily mitigated with the right approach.

Rebuilding your website may not be the cheapest option now, but in the long run, it is likely to save you a significant amount of money and break free of the restrictions that currently hold your website back.

So when you do rebuild your website, here's what to look out for:

Losing SEO value

With any website rebuild, you'll find that your ranking on Google is at risk. You're making a significant overhaul to your website, which means it'll need to be re-crawled and re-indexed.

A few things to pay attention to

  • Are you deleting lots of old impactful pages?
  • Are you correctly redirecting unused pages?
  • If you've moved to a new domain, are you correctly redirecting from your old domain in every instance?
  • Are you providing all the SEO tags google and social platforms need?

It may sound like a lot of work to make sure that all these things are correctly updated. But losing ranking due to mistakes made during migration can be very costly.

Losing loyal customers

People don't like change, and that will include your customers. Even if you're creating a modernized design with a better User Experience, loyal customers might lose interest simply due to shock.

That's not to say you shouldn't make those changes if they give your customers a better experience, but you might need to temper how much you change in one go.

If you're looking to make a significant overhaul to your application while also keeping your customers happy, make sure that you ease them into the new design. 

You'll often see this with updated branding on services like Google Docs, where significant changes often allow customers to continue using the old version of your software for a while. This helps ease them into the new designs, allowing them to compare differences between them while also getting used to the idea that the older version won't be around forever.

Never being able to release

One of the other problems of making significant changes to your website is that it's almost addictive to find new ideas to add when you know you're going to be changing everything anyway. 

While adding new features that benefit your customers is a great approach, it can also add significant complexity to the project and make it harder to reach a point where it's possible to launch.

When releasing a new build, it's important to focus only on what's essential for the initial release. That could be just a couple of pages (we launched the first version of the Skyward website with just one page).

Nothing is stopping you from adding more features later.

How to switch effectively

Our recommended approach when you're looking to rebuild your website is to break it down:

  1. Build your MVP: This is the bare minimum you need to get your new website up and working and allow you to add content. What this looks like depends on your business
  2. Add the next most important feature
  3. and the next
  4. and so on

Approaching your project like this helps you prioritize what's most important while ensuring you don't keep making changes without ever releasing them.

For some projects, your MVP might need to be large, especially if you're replacing something that already exists, and that's okay. 

For other projects, even massive projects can be broken down into more minor changes that are easier to build, allowing you to slowly migrate piece-by-piece. 

One of the benefits of the Jamstack is that it can work alongside your current technology while you're migrating. You can migrate small parts at a time.

Maybe your landing pages start out using a new Jamstack approach, then your products (while you migrate them all across), then everything else. Or you could migrate all your marketing pages to Jamstack first like we did with Pigeon Loans and then do your SaaS product later. It's incredibly flexible, and we can help you find the right approach if you need help.

The Pigeon Loans help center and create loan pages designed by Skyward

We helped Pigeon Loans separate their Application and Marketing website during their redesign to help improve development effectiveness, simplify maintenance and reduce errors

So, when should you rebuild your website?

So I'm sure I've done a great job of convincing you that you should rebuild your website. If it's old, outdated, and causing you lots of headaches, you probably need to rebuild it! There are lots of reasons why rebuilding your website is probably a good idea.

But you shouldn't have to rebuild your website regularly. A good architecture will allow you to make small changes over time. All of the projects we work on are built this way, enabling effective growth.

We do this by first understanding the business needs of our customers, helping to form a good understanding between designers, developers, and the rest of the team in how features should be put together in the most effective way for the long term. 

We want you to have a great website now, but we also want to make sure you're in the best position to still have a good website in 5 years, no matter how much you change it.

And remember. You don't have to do it all in one go - in fact, we encourage you not to! Make small changes and improve continuously.

So are you looking to rebuild? Reach out, and we'll help you get started.