Laser Technik Ltd

What is the life expectancy of a website?

The answer is “it depends”. To try to help explain I’ll draw a comparison with a new car. 

Vintage cars are mechanically straightforward and the electronics are basic – not much more than lights, ignition and a few electric motors. Modern vehicles with automatic gearboxes, complex electronics and hydraulics are far more complex. There are far more things to go wrong. 

The same applies to web sites. 25 year old web site built with basic HTML; no problem.  Latest design software, CSS, PHP, Javascript and databases; much more maintenance and a shorter life expectancy. 

Car Web site
Year one
Running costs: fuel, screen-wash, car-wash.
Watch for warning lights. Check oil, lights, brakes, tires  but occasionally there’s a more serious problem.
Products added, deleted, updated. Watch for errors and warning messages. Check for software updates e.g. WordPress plugins. Even in year one elements can fail.
Start of year two
Service, road tax and insurance renewals. Maintenance costs depend on your usage. If you’ve clocked up high mileage there may be more components needing attention. Domain names, hosting and possibly software license renewals. Occasionally the related costs may increase. An immensely successful website might even need a server upgrade.
Year three onwards
After 3 years the car needs its first MOT. Hopefully just a formality but we’ve all had the call to say a shock- absorber has failed, brake shoes or tires need replacing etc. Occasionally the mechanic might report a more significant issue. Some owners may upgrade to a newer model but it’s seldom essential. A web site can benefit from a more careful check too. Are there any software changes needed? Example: in 2020 the facilities to embed Facebook and Google Maps in a web site changed and needed attention. Some may wish to commission a redesign but by choice rather than necessity, usually it’s too soon.
Year five onwards

Some of the benefits of buying new car may be becoming more appealing, maintenance costs increasing, attractive new features. And your needs may have changed.

There is a greater risk of more significant maintenance issues with a 5 year old car than with a more recent one, but it is only a risk, the car may keep going with few problems for many more years.

The website may be beginning to look dated. There may be some significant developments in the technology you’d like to be able to exploit. With a 5 year old web site, be prepared for problems.  If you kept up with the routine maintenance tasks it may be fine but it may be time for significant review.
Year ten
A car is pretty well fully depreciated. By now there will have been significant advances in vehicle technology, maybe it will be hybrid or purely electric power. Internet technologies and fashions will have advanced significantly. You will be lucky if a 10 year old web site is still fully functioning and effective.
Beyond year ten
The car is becoming “an old banger”. A well-maintained vehicle may have plenty of usable life left, but many will be headed for the scrap yard. Whether that will continue to apply to newer vehicles with their more complex electronics and different power sources remains to be seen. But there are vintage vehicles still going strong after a century. We have a client whose web site is over 20 years old. It uses the much simpler technologies of the 1990s. The client is still happy with it, he said “If it’s not broke don’t fix it!” – but we did agree that the FAX number could be deleted. The simple design means that Google’s page speed  score for the site is an unprecedented 100%.