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Technology / Business websites

Should you upgrade your website or start again from scratch?

Your website is outdated and now you have to decide whether to upgrade your website, or start again from scratch. Grant O’Neill breaks down the pros and cons of each decision.

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When a website has become outdated, needs a design refresh, or is missing features that the business requires, the question arises as to whether it’s best to upgrade your website, or start again from scratch.

A quick horror story

We recently worked with a business who had been developing a website for some time. Unfortunately, the web development agency had gone into liquidation before finishing the site.

On top of that, the software was outdated and not fit for purpose, the design was nowhere near the level of quality required, and there were a range of other technical problems. The client would have had to spend a reasonable sum of money with a new developer to get it into good working order. So, they had to decide whether to do that, or just start over. In the end, they opted to start anew.

How often does that happen?

It’s actually pretty common for a near-finished, or even recently finished, website to start over from scratch. Our agency actually went through a number of different ‘versions’ of our website, over the course of four years, before launching our current one. In our case, that happened because our business evolved at a quick pace and technology also came along in leaps and bounds during the course of development.

"It’s actually pretty common for a near-finished, or even recently finished, website to start over from scratch. "

So, there does come a point with some websites where one must decide whether to make some adjustments or start over.

How to decide which option is right for you

It’s not always an easy choice because there are so many factors to consider. These include:

Budget

  • How much can the business afford to spend on the project?
  • How recently was the current website completed and paid for?
  • Does the current website generate sufficient business to cover the costs of a redevelopment… or could it, if it was revamped?

Timeframes

  • How soon do the changes need to be completed?
  • Can the changes/upgrades be staggered/implemented over time to take the pressure off?
  • Is it worth persisting with the current website a little longer, while a new website is developed according to the current business needs? Or does it need to be updated immediately?

Software capabilities

  • How difficult will it be to make the changes using the existing software?
  • Is there better software available now?
  • Are there other areas where the website could benefit from newer software in general, such as extra features, faster load times, or enhanced security?
  • Can any existing business applications or tools be integrated into the existing website for increased productivity and automation, or is it better to do that from a clean slate?
  • Will there be a need to train or retrain staff to use the new website?
  • Will newer/different software offer the potential to scale and adapt the website in other ways in future, such as adding an online store or booking system, or taking credit card payments?

Other considerations

  • Are there any other existing issues with the website which could be taken care of at the same time, such as slow load times or security problems?
  • If the changes are made to the existing website, are they merely a band-aid solution which holds no long-term value?
  • Are there any issues with the current website which are reflecting poorly on the business and could be addressed as well?

So, what’s the answer?

Because of all these factors, each website really must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. That said, quite often if a website is more than a few years old – and it’s not too heavily entrenched with business systems – then starting from a clean slate can take care of a number of issues in one foul swoop.

Choosing to eschew all of that time, effort and money invested to date is difficult – frankly, it sucks – but sometimes that’s just what is needed. Other times, you can get away with what you’ve already got. It’s best to speak to a respected and well-established web developer before making the decision.

Have you ever had to make the heart-breaking decision to start a half-built website again from scratch? What was the deciding factor?

Grant O'Neill

is the Director of GO Creative, a digital marketing agency in Brisbane which specialises in web design. He's passionate about helping small businesses squeeze every dollar out of their marketing budget, without sacrificing quality. Connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

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