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How long does a B2B website last?

By John Woods  |  May 15, 2024

We’re sometimes asked questions like “our website is only 2 years old, is it reasonable to replace it?”.  Or equivalently, “if we invest £Xk in a new website this year, how long before we need to spend similar money again?”.  

The fundamental question behind both of those is: how long should one expect a new B2B website to last? 

This isn’t an exact science. But in our opinion, a sensible target lifetime for a B2B website is between 3 and 5 years. 

It’s OK to be risk-averse about commissioning a new B2B website

A new B2B website is a significant investment in both time and money for any business. 

The total cost is likely to consume a significant chunk of your annual marketing budget. And let’s be honest – B2B website projects are HARD WORK. The time and energy needed to bring a new website to life is a big drain on any B2B marketing team and puts pressure on relationships with wider stakeholders. The opportunity cost of all of that is very substantial. 

[And sometimes website projects fail altogether, so some or all of that investment might never deliver any return at all. But that’s a topic for another day!] 

Given the cost and uncertainty, most B2B organisations will, quite rationally, be cautious about committing to a new website. There’s often a choice between investing in a new site or carrying on with the current website.  

A long-lived website is good for the budget 

Think of a B2B website as a capital investment – like a new computer or other equipment. The longer it lasts, the more value it will provide in return for the up-front cost of building it. A website that costs £120k to build and that lasts for 5 years costs £2K a month over its lifetime. If instead it lasts for a year, that cost rises to £10K a month. 

If you can commission a new website that will last for, say, 6 years rather than 2 years, you’re effectively reducing its cost by two thirds. That’s a massive saving. 

Why do old websites need to be retired?  

There are a few different reasons why an old B2B website might be “too old” to carry on. It’s worth taking a bit of time to dig into these. Not least because, in trying to understand what “kills” a B2B website, we can identify some things that could help build a more future-proof website with a longer lifetime – and the associated financial benefit.  

There are a few reasons why a website might need to be replaced. Some of the most common: 

  • Technical obsolescence – the CMS or other critical aspect of the site’s technology platform is out of date, support is no longer available, or there is no viable migration route to a supported platform. The site is at risk of irrecoverable technical failure and possibly exposed to security vulnerabilities. There’s no feasible option except to replace the site.
  • Rebranding – your company undergoes a rebrand. The design and content of the old site won’t be consistent with the new branding. If the rebrand isn’t too radical it might be possible to adjust the existing site. But if it’s a major rebrand, it probably won’t be economically feasible to rework the existing site. It will be cheaper to replace it. 
  • Business change – something significant changes in your business, perhaps as a result of an acquisition or merger, or as a response to other strategic drivers. The story that you want to present to the outside world changes substantially as a result. The old site doesn’t reflect that, and it’s not cost effective to rework it. A new site that reflects the new positioning of the business is needed. 
  • Content structure/workflow changes – the site still works and looks fine for users, but the “back end” systems that the team uses to update the site no longer allow it to be maintained in a safe and cost-effective way. If you’re lucky, the site’s technical platform might be flexible enough that it can be adjusted for new content structures and workflows. But if the changes are substantial, it’s probably time for a new site that’s built around your new content structure and workflows.  
  • Design obsolescence – the site’s been around a long time. It still works, and could still be updated in incremental ways, but the look and feel and user experience are dated, and it is increasingly difficult to present new content in ways that users expect. It’s often a nuanced decision to replace a website for this reason: there’s no single moment at which a design becomes “too dated”, so it will always be a judgement call whether to replace the website or carry on for a while longer. 

What impacts the website lifetime?

Let’s look at how some of those factors might impact the website’s lifetime. 

Technical obsolescence 

In the early days of the internet there was a very fast pace of technical change, and web technology platforms became dated very quickly. Nowadays the pace of change is a bit more predictable. But there is still a lot of change. Think about this timeline for WordPress, for example. WordPress as a platform goes back to 2003, but it wasn’t really a sensible choice for a professional website until around 2013. Today it’s a great choice for quite a wide range of website projects and can robustly handle even some very complex requirements (like multi-language support). But we can see some trends that might lead to WordPress being a less desirable platform choice in the future, with platforms like Webflow and Wix offering some advantages. 

So WordPress has already lasted 10 years or so as a mainstream platform, and we can be pretty confident it will be around quite a while longer. 

In contrast there are a lot of technical platforms that don’t have so much longevity. For instance, if you’d chosen the Nucleus CMS which in 2012 was touted as a serious alternative to WordPress, you’d have seen it become obsolete back in 2014. 

We’d say that if you build a website today on a mainstream, widely supported technology platform you can count on at least a 10-year lifetime. If you chose a more niche platform for some critical component of your website, you run the risk of much earlier obsolescence. So make this technical platform lifetime assessment part of your decision-making about a new website. You might have valid business reasons for selecting a new or niche technology platform, but if you do, recognise that that choice risks limiting the working lifetime of your new site. 

Rebranding and business change 

A rebrand is rarely spontaneous, so your company’s leadership team probably has a good idea of the likely timescales for any future rebranding. If you can be confident there’s no major rebranding in the offing, this probably won’t limit the lifespan of your website. But if your brand is ageing or if there are other reasons why a rebrand is likely, you should assume you’ll need to replace your website when that rebrand happens. 

You might hope to build a website in such a way that it can be rebranded as an update, without completely replacing the site. Sometimes that’s possible, especially if the rebrand is an incremental change. But often a change in branding will undermine the overall design coherence of a website. It’s best to assume that new brand = new website. 

So: if you are expecting a rebrand within a year or two, it’s probably best to defer any commitment to a new website. 

Business change is harder to predict. Some organizations and industries are naturally fast-moving and subject to a lot of change – for instance there may be a lot of mergers and acquisitions. Other industries don’t have the same pace of change. You could look back over the history of your own organisation and similar companies in your industry to make an estimate of how likely it is that a future business change will come along and require a website replacement. For a lot of industries this might set an average 5-10 year lifespan. 

Content structure/workflow changes 

These sorts of changes are often the main internal driving factor for a website replacement. The old site still works, but the marketing team can no longer update it in the way that they want to, or updates are time-consuming and difficult in a way that limits what the marketing team can achieve. 

There can be a lot of reasons why a mismatch develops between desired working practices and the structure and functionality of an existing website. Perhaps your team has adopted a new marketing technology like a marketing automation system. Perhaps there’s been a business change or competitive pressure that requires a new type of content, such as product videos where previously static images were sufficient. Or you’ve moved into new geographic markets and need content in multiple languages. 

No one sets out to build a website that won’t support future content requirements and associated workflows, but it’s hard to anticipate these types of changes too far into the future. You can mitigate the impact of future changes by choosing a mainstream technical platform and building in some flexibility to the backend setup of any new website. But it’s not possible to build in unlimited flexibility to anticipate every possible future requirement, and flexibility comes at a cost – if you insist on a lot of flexibility in the back end of a new website, you’ll pay more for the build and you’ll have more complexity to handle day-to-day, which increases your cost of ownership. 

You’ll perhaps have an idea about the likely pace of future change within your team. Are you early adopters that like to bring in new marketing technologies whenever possible? Are your competitors and your industry very dynamic and constantly bringing in new types of content? Or are things more slow moving? 

Realistically, for most organisations it’s likely that some form of content or workflow change will start to limit the lifetime of a website within perhaps 2-5 years.  

Design obsolescence 

Design trends evolve gradually over time – so a website from 2015 just “looks” a bit dated, even if it still works fine. And there are specific challenges that arise from external technology changes. For example, in 2015 there was arguably no need for a B2B website to support mobile browsing, whereas today that’s essential. And changes in legislation have forced technical changes around cookie consent.

It’s hard to predict whether there will be future technology step changes that will make today’s designs obsolete. Perhaps the way that we interact with websites will change fundamentally because of generative AI. Or some new device like Apple’s Vision Pro will become mainstream and rework the browsing experience. There’s not much we can do today to anticipate uncertain future step changes in design best practices.  

The creeping sense of a site becoming “dated” is a bit easier to predict though. It’s a judgement call, but I’d say it’s realistic to expect around a 3-5 year lifetime for a B2B design. After that time, the chances are your site will start to signal its age to your users. 

You can increase the likely lifetime of your new site by taking this into account in the design process. Most B2B teams will be somewhat conservative in their attitude to design, but you can still aim for a fresh, modern design to avoid limiting the lifetime of your site. There are some evergreen design principles – simplicity always ages better than complexity, for example! 

Here’s to a longish and happy life (for your website) 

So you’ll see why we suggest a 3-5 year target lifetime for a new B2B website – the clock starts running on design obsolescence even before your shiny new site goes live, and content/workflow changes are an inevitable fact of life in the digital marketing world. They will start to bite after a few years, and after 5 years the chances are high that either design obsolescence or content/workflow changes will become so limiting that a new site is essential.  

This has a few implications when you are planning a website: 

  • You should use that 3-5 year target lifetime in your financial evaluation of the investment case. 
  • It’s worth thinking and planning for contingencies like rebranding and business change that might happen within the first 1-3 years of a new website’s life. 
  • It’s not really worth worrying about other contingencies beyond 3-5 years.  

In particular the 3-5 year timescale is a good one for assessing your technical platform choices. Can you be confident that the core technologies underpinning your new website will still be around and fully support in 5 years’ time? If so, that’s as good as forever for planning purposes. 

If you need a new B2B website, or if you want help extending the lifetime of your existing site, or just a conversation around the issues we’ve raised in this blog, we’d love to hear from you – get in touch! 

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