Why do we assume a redesign every 2-3 years?

My response:

If we look at the technical timeline, this goes back to the start of the web. In the 1990s, HTML and browsers changed rapidly enough that we needed to redesign websites to keep up with what was new. People had no idea how to design for this medium. Netscape and Internet Explorer were completely different. Table-based layouts were new. Fonts other than Times were new. We had 216 web-safe colors and a 640x480 boat anchor-style monitor to do it all.

In the 2000s, it was a matter of integrating CSS, ripping out tables, and getting people running on content management systems. We started to integrate multimedia and social media. Internet connections got faster, so we used more images.

From 2010-2015, it was making sites responsive.

From 2015 on, it became all about the JavaScript, shortly by all about the web apps.

And now, everyone in Geekland is exhausted by how fast everything changes.

Once the tech department has turned over in 2-3 years, all institutional knowledge has been lost about the site and how it was put together. The current developers trash the current site and how horrible it is. It’s time to redo the site in another technology that the current devs know. Then they depart, new devs are hired, and the cycle begins again.

Imagine a 10-year lifetime for a website. We might change the look of the frontend a little during that time, but we won’t change the fundamental working of the system.

That means our most recent redesign would have been February 2011. Content management systems and jQuery were the thing. Node.js was 18 months old. GitHub was a few years old. Angular was just barely released. Bootstrap wasn’t yet released.

Those websites were perfectly effective, but not as slick as the stateless websites we have today. A website from 2011 would look quite dated in 2021, not just in graphic design, but in technological design.

A 5-year timeline is more realistic with the fast pace of technology. However, if employees continue to turn over in less than 5 year intervals, do we attract the best people to work in the tech department if they’re working on 4-year old technology? Do we define the “best” people as those who are up with the most cutting edge techniques, or those who know the current tech on the current website?

There’s a lot of cultural issues here that we must first resolve. Perhaps the industry is still too young to realize we’re burning ourselves out.

Jen Kramer @jen4web