Deciding how to upgrade your website

The web is an ever evolving beast, and keeping up with the new technology and trends is both time consuming and costly. Deciding on how to best upgrade your website (or web app) is no mean feat, and is an important initial discussion I have with clients.

There are a vast array of options and factors to consider, and of course the most thought about is budget and return on investment. It’s often forgotten, but it’s also very important to consider how a particular option may make sense for your users and customers.

In this article I’d thought I’d explore three of the most common ways to go about upgrading a website, looking at the general pros and cons of each. It’s worth noting that there isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ option, as with most things in the world of software and web development — it’s all about finding the right tool for the job. After all, you wouldn’t (or rather shouldn’t) use a pair of scissors to cut your grass.

Option 1 — From The Ground Up

The first and most obvious way to go about upgrading your website is to ‘simply’ put what you have in the bin to one side and start again. This may not be for the faint-hearted, and of course depends quite a bit on the scale and quality of what is currently in place, as well as the feasibility of making such a big change. Medium to large business may not bat an eye at such an option, whereas a small business may not be able to afford it. On the flip side, a medium to large business may have a lot of faith in what they currently have, whereas a small business may need to change completely in order to successfully break into the market.

Out of the three options, building from the ground up takes the most time and will therefore be the most costly, but it delivers the most technically sound and future-proof result, with all of the potential of the new technology.

This option may make sense if the change needed is significant, for example where a rebrand and website redesign can’t be delivered without upgrading a lot of backend infrastructure such as the CMS as well.

Imagine you have an ecommerce website, building from the ground up would involve a new design to be created, then user tested, iterated, and built. This would likely include everything from the hosting to the product pictures to be evaluated and potentially upgraded.

Pros

  • Latest features / technology
  • Easier to maintain
  • Easier to upgrade
  • Easiest to implement
  • Biggest potential for results
  • Built to last
  • Improved UI/UX across entire website
  • Improved performance across entire website

Cons

  • Timescale
  • Cost
  • Commitment to new technology
  • Knowledge may not be in-house
  • Significant change
  • Potential risk

Example

The website Konga rebuilt their website from the ground up as a Progressive Web App. This resulted in 63% less data for initial load, vs. previous mobile web experience and 84% less data to complete first transaction, vs. previous mobile web experience.

See the case study — https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2016/konga

Option 2 — A ‘Lite’ Version

Creating a ‘lite’ version of your website or web app is a powerful way to integrate new technology without the cost or timescale of a complete rebuild as described above. A ‘lite’ version will be a slither or single process of the current website, that will be built to either be integrated with the current site, or to stand by it’s own.

By focusing on a simple version or slither, the overall work is reduced, in turn reducing time and therefore cost, whilst still delivering a lot of the potential of the new technology.

Consider the ecommerce website example again. Instead of rebuilding the entire website we could focus on the checkout process. This could be reimagined and brought to life using cutting edge technology to improve the user flow and ultimately conversions, and then integrated into the website or bolted on as an add-on.

Pros

  • Latest features / technology
  • Timescale
  • Cost
  • Less significant change
  • Lower risk
  • Potential for results
  • Improved UI/UX across part of website
  • Improved performance across part of website

Cons

  • More difficult to maintain
  • More difficult to upgrade
  • More difficult to implement
  • Commitment to new technology
  • Not built to last
  • May require both internal and external resource

Example

The Washington Post built a simple version of their website as a Progressive Web App and also utilised AMP technology. This fantastic combination of powerful and cutting edge technology results in an article load time of <80ms and an increase in returning users from mobile search by 23%.

See the case study — https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2016/wapo

Option 3 — Feature Wise

The third most common option to upgrade a website is to pick a feature to upgrade, or new technology feature to implement. Depending on the feature, this has the potential to be the cheapest way to make a big impact for a website.

By focusing on a single feature and prioritising on what would have highest impact for both the users and the business, this option can deliver a very good return on investment. It can therefore be more suited to those looking to make a jump forward without a big budget.

This option is also good to test the potential of new technology without taking too much of a risk. Focusing on small features one at a time means the improvement can be introduced more gradually, for those with big and complex systems this can be a much safer approach if a complete rebuild isn’t an option.

Pros

  • Latest features / technology
  • Timescale
  • Cost
  • Less significant change
  • Lowest risk
  • Potential for results
  • Improved UI/UX across small part of website
  • Improved performance across small part of website
  • No commitment to new technology

Cons

  • Difficult to maintain
  • Difficult to upgrade
  • Difficult to implement
  • Not built to last
  • May require both internal and external resource

Example

The Weather Company implemented the Push Notification feature of a Progressive Web App on their website in 62 languages and 178 countries.

See the case study — https://developers.google.com/web/showcase/2016/weather-channel

No Right Option

As I mentioned above, neither of these options are the ‘go-to’. Circumstance, budget, timeframes, and users are just a few influencing factors when it comes to upgrading your website. The important thing is to ensure that all factors are considered carefully and the users are put first. Upgrading a website is not only about improving your brand, but also about making the web a better, more reliable, more accessible, and more secure place.

The PWA Way

All of these options are particularly applicable to the integration of the new and exciting Progressive Web App technology. A website or web app can be rebuilt or upgraded to take advantage of these powerful new features through either of the options detailed above.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or discussing how to upgrade your website and what sorts of costs are involved, then please get in touch at liam@lunarworks.co.uk, or leave a comment below.