Why take time out to refresh old sites?

Roughly a 3 minute read from Alex

23 Oct 2009

Creating sites which survive the test of time can be a tricky affair. Firstly, you need to avoid the temptation to jump on the current design trend bandwagon, as despite pink graffiti looking 'real dope' today, it's going to look 'real crappy' a year down the line. Then you have all your CSS, JS, and (x)HTML amongst others to consider - Web technologies can move at a frightening pace and there's always something on the horizon to do the same job better, and use less code doing it.

I'd imagine most of you reading this have client sites that they'd love to be able to re-visit, ripping out box model hacks, adding a few bits of nice CSS3, replacing sIFR with Cufon (any thoughts?) or maybe even moving the whole site onto a development framework such as Codeigniter? The hurdle that you'll inevitably face though is that if you're not changing the design itself (which to your credit may have stood the test of time and still look great) it's hard to convince the client that investing in everything bar the 'tip of the iceberg' is just as important as the design itself.

So what are the benefits to the client? Well, the big one is reduced time (and cost) for ongoing maintenance and development work. Some people will argue that reduced development time is a bad thing, as it means less hours invoiced and less money in the bank for iPods and Threadless tees. We'd then ask would you rather spend twice as long doing some pretty mundane updates to a site, or get them done nice and quickly (impressing the client with your responsiveness!) and then spend the time saved pitching some fantastic new ideas to them and working on those? We think it's a no brainer, and our experience has indeed shown that exploring new ideas can often result in acquiring larger budgets down the line anyway.

Also, if you're like me, then just knowing that a site isn`t using the latest jQuery point release or that your Google Analytics code is being repeated on every page rather than in a nice a global include will niggle you like you have mild OCD!

Thankfully, we're fortunate to have clients who listen to our advice, and when we pitched a refresh of the Cafe Rouge site, which is close to celebrating it's 4th Birthday, they were completely on board. The result is a site which runs faster, uses less bandwidth and is more usable and thus easier to navigate - vastly improving the visitor experience . Their ongoing development work has reduced and we've got some exciting new projects underway for them as a result. Now if that wasn`t a worthwhile investment I don't know what is!

If you're in a similar position, what are your experiences? Are refreshes something you actively pitch, or something which you'd like to address but haven`t quite worked out the best way to do it? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. In the meatime, I'm off to refresh myself with a pint. Good day to you all.

Alex

Alex is co-founder of Engage. With an awarded background in design and development he now concentrates the majority of his time on moulding the future picture of Engage's development, paying particular attention to the intricate balance of culture, growth and doughnut consumption.

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