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When To Build a New Website vs Update an Existing Website

Unlike that bottle of ketchup or mustard stored at the back of your fridge for years and years, your website has a shelf life of about 2 to 3 years; and the subsequent issues are far more difficult to ignore than an old ketchup bottle. At that point, the technology that your website is built on is outdated, causing functionality and performance issues. (You also may want to go through your fridge if you have mysteriously old condiments in there.) Whether you are running a 3+ year old website or covering your burger in expired ketchup, the results are going to be troublesome.

Just like you replace your phone every few years because the battery starts dwindling, your storage space is running low, or everything is loading slower and slower, your website operates the same way. As technology advances, online expectations evolve, and new backend features are released, your website can’t maintain the same level of functionality as it needs to and is expected to.

Yet the decision to replace your condiments or even update your phone is not the same as redoing your website. It requires significantly more money and time to develop a new website. It’s no small decision, and that’s why businesses often opt to update their current website rather than getting a new website. And, updating a website is a great option! Yet, you can’t fix something that is already falling apart. Duct tape and wishful thinking can only go so far.

Which leads us to the ultimate question, when should I update my existing website versus when should I get a new website?

Signs That It’s Time for a New Website

Scratching off the expiration date and etching a new date on the ketchup bottle isn’t going to make it any tastier or safe; in fact, you could be risking a very unfortunate series of events. Similarly, an old and outdated website can’t be fixed with updated copy, design changes, or on-site SEO (search engine optimization) work. Yes, it makes it more appealing on the outside, but it’s still the same product on the backend.

These are the 5 main reasons you should consider building a new website rather than attempting to restore your existing site.

  1. Your website is more than 3 years old
  2. Unsupported website themes
  3. The website needs better organization
  4. Your site is difficult to manage
  5. Website and branding no longer match

1. Your Website is More Than 3 Years Old

The digital world is evolving, and fast. To keep up, you need to make sure your website is using and operating on the latest technology standards. Each year there are new digital advancements that subsequently impact your website because it also affects Google’s algorithms and customer expectations.

Let’s take, for example, mobile websites. As phones grew in popularity, so did the use of using search engines on mobile devices. Quickly Google responded by making mobile responsive websites (sites that display and function correctly on mobile devices) a very high ranking factor. If you didn’t redo your website then and make it mobile-ready, your website quickly dropped down the ranks and saw a significant decline in traffic.

There are a lot of components that contribute to making a website ‘old.’ For example, an older site will display the signs discussed below. It goes to show, no matter how well you manage your website month over month or year over year, you can’t stop time and its undeniable impact on a website’s functionality.

2. Unsupported Website Themes

A majority of websites are built using themes, or a basic outline of the layout and functionality of your website. It’s the foundation of your site. As technology advances, new versions of the theme will be released to comply with the changes. But as themes become outdated styles and designs, the author no longer creates and releases updated versions, causing your website to be using and operating on a classic version rather than an ideal version.

Negative impacts of outdated themes:

  • It’s not compatible with new and improved plugins
  • It doesn’t meet current design standards
  • It doesn’t work with new WordPress features

The benefits of using a new theme during a rebuild:

  • Significantly improves functionality
  • Works with updated plugins and features
  • Gives your website a modern style
  • Improves professional appearance
  • Increase customer’s confidence in your business

3. The Website Needs Better Organization

Over the years you’ve added, changed, and edited your website to meet your business’s changing needs. This is great! Your website should reflect your current business goals; but after years of changing things in a non-strategic way, it can cause a chaotic mess.

Navigation is a critical part of your website’s performance. For a visitor to complete an action (like calling your business or purchasing your product), they have to be able to find where to go and what action to take. A website should be very simple to navigate relying on clear organization and supporting design and copy.

Signs that your navigation is confusing:

  1. Visitors have a difficult time getting to desired pages indicated by high bounce rates, high time on page, and low pages per sessions
  2. Subpages are ordered in a nonlogical manner
  3. Navigation is hard to use or non-functional on mobile devices
  4. There is a lack of call to actions (CTAs) and buttons on the site
  5. The site makes it difficult for visitors to contact you

4. Your Site Is Difficult to Manage

When spending hours, days, and weeks trying to repair the site still isn’t making the impact you need to see, it’s time to rebuild. Or, a webmaster controls the editing rights to your website making it very difficult to make consistent and efficient changes to the site.

Far too often we see beautiful websites being built and then abandoned as soon as they are launched. A website can’t fend for itself, it needs ongoing maintenance to uphold its new level of functionality. When a website is left unattended, it quickly downgrades to a jumble of issues, ‘oh-no’s’, and question marks.

These are common side effects of an unmaintained or difficult to repair site:

  1. Loading times are slow because of the build-up of junk files and old pages
  2. Increase in viruses or bugs because updates are not working correctly leaving the site vulnerable
  3. Backend admin work is not user friendly causing you to rely on a third party for all website updates (both big and small)

 5. Website and Branding No Longer Match

Has your business undergo a rebrand?

Did you pivot your services or product offerings?

Did you change your target audience?

Have you revisited your brand voice?

There are a lot of reasons a website no longer matches your business. As your business changes, your website needs to evolve alongside in order to successfully support your business.

If you reimagined how you want to target your audience, does your website’s copy successfully relay this message? Do the imagery and design elements connect with your audience and support your voice? Do you need to remove or add pages to align with your business changes? While some of these updates can be fixed with a site refresh, it depends on the depth of your edits. Sometimes it is more cost-effective and strategic to redo your website rather than try to salvage what you already have.

Signs That Updating Your Website Is the Right Move

Developing a new website is an exciting yet large undertaking. Whether you have the team in-house, have an existing digital agency partner, or are in search of a website guru, there are things you can do to keep your website fresh and functioning properly (Including core and plugin updates – check out our blog about why this is crucial!).

A website refresh is when you keep the same website backend, such as the theme and coding, but update the visual front end. Oftentimes this includes adding new call to actions, adding pages to match your current service or product offerings, implementing SEO enhancements, adding new photos, or updating meta information. There is a lot you can do to upgrade your current website to make it more appealing, helpful, and conversion-ready.

These are the 3 main reasons giving your current website a facelift is a better option than developing a new site.

  1. It’s less than 2 years old
  2. It’s not in the budget (yet)
  3. It has a bug

1. It’s Less than 2 Years Old

As mentioned, a website has a lifespan of about 2-3 years. Of course, this depends on the level of regular maintenance. A website that receives monthly check-ins is going to be able to last longer compared to a website that is created and then left abandoned (Check out our blog that covers what your monthly maintenance program should include!). Yet, time will always win because you can’t stay ahead of all the major technology changes.

As a rule of thumb, if your website is less than 2 years old, then refreshing the site is still a great option! But if the site is 3 years or older, then you need to evaluate how well your website has been maintained as well as the other signs noted above (the theme, navigation, and branding) before deciding to spend your time and energy on refreshing your site.

2. It’s Not in the Budget (Yet)

Of course, making website updates is more cost-friendly than developing a new website. But the important thing to remember is this is only a short-term solution. Inevitably, a website redo will be necessary but you can start alleviating the costs by using a strategic website refresh plan.

For example, you can start updating copy on your site by optimizing with keywords, removing outdated information, and aligning with your brand voice during your refreshing process. Therefore, when you develop your new site, a majority of your copy will already be updated and ready to flow over.

If it’s not within your business’ budget this year or the next, it doesn’t mean you should keep avoiding your website and not making the necessary updates. Ultimately, a website refresh is better than letting your website get overrun with problems.

3. It Has a Bug

For newer sites, sometimes the only reason they may be acting strange is because they caught a bug or virus, and just need a little care. Have your website developer scan the backend to identify any bugs or viruses that found their way into your website or coding. A quick removal will have your website up and running in no time!

This just shows the importance of having a website partner with the technical knowledge and tools to efficiently address these concerns.

What’s best for YOUR website?

If you’ve been noticing that your website isn’t keeping up with your competitors and isn’t supporting your business goals, it’s time to do something about it! Start by asking yourself these simple questions to know if you need a new website or to refresh your existing website.

  1. Is your website 3 years or older?
    1. If you answered yes, consider a new website build
  2. Is your website’s theme, navigation, or backend difficult to manage?
    1. If you answered yes, consider a new website build
  3. Does your website differ from your business’ branding?
    1. If you answered yes, consider a new website build
  4. Is a website development project currently not in the budget but will be in the next few years?
    1. If you answered yes, consider a website refresh
  5. Is your website less than 2 years old and is experiencing issues?
    1. If you answered yes, consider a website refresh


As we all know, it’s a little more complicated than this, but these signs and questions are a great way for you and your team to start thinking about your next website project.

At Evolve, we work with businesses like yours that are debating if a website refresh or redo is right for them. We will guide you through a more in-depth process of understanding your business and website to provide a complete website recommendation. We are considerate of your business concerns and collaborate to create a business-specific yet best practice strategy.

To learn more, get in touch with our team! We look forward to hearing from you.