I recently posted about Amazon changing their website every few years and indicated that you should do the same with your website. But the reasons are much more than just a graphic facelift. While changing graphics and content are important for keeping your site fresh and engaging (which the search engines such as Google take into account), there are some very real technical reasons why you need to update your website. Here’s a simple technical explanation…


As you can see from the graphic, there is a lot going on. And all this technology changes all the time. I just had a conversation with a customer who hasn’t updated his site in 6 years, and he was wondering why certain things didn’t work right. With the changes in the code that have happened during that time, it is a miracle that his site is sitll functioning at all!

Let’s step through the graphic. In step 1, the visitor to your website requests a page by clicking on a link or visiting your site. This request comes from a browser, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. These browsers affect how your site will look and those softwares are updated frequently. When this request hits the web server, this is a computer that typically runs on either Windows or Linux. Both of those softwares change as well, for a variety of reasons: security, new features, etc. Because the page being requested is dependent upon data and other files, the server directs the request to server application software, which is a way of understanding the code the site was written in. Server side languages include PHP, ColdFusion, ASP, Perl, and Java. These softwares of course change frequently as well to take advantage of the latest techniques. Now if your site uses a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, then that CMS also interacts with many pieces of software written by a number of third parties, such as plugins for an ecommerce shopping cart or a calendar. Yep, you guessed it, all those pieces of software are updated regularly as well. Plus they have to interact with and play nicely with all the other code.

And as these pieces of software get updated, what do you think the chances are that something will break? Pretty high! Which is why having a support agreement with your webmaster is so important compared to just having a hosting plan.

Now those pieces of software gather the files they need and the data they need. The data comes from a database – typically MySQL, or occassionally MS SQL Server, Access, Sybase, or Oracle. The database software also gets updated on a regular basis. Then the server application software (PHP or ColdFusion) creates an HTML file that is then sent back to the browser on your computer, which is the resulting page that you see. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is what the browser software displays on your screen. HTML is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium and this actually changes occasionally as well – currently modern browsers support HTML5, which sounds like a low revision number compared to Firefox 37! But some items that used to be supported in earlier versions of HTML have been depricated (they no longer work in HTML5), which means that your site could stop working.

Here is a list of the software that is used to run your website, which are continuously being updated and must all work together. Any one of these could break your website or cause it to not function as efficiently as it should:

  • The Operating System of your computer or mobile device (Windows, Apple IOS, Android)
  • The Browser you are using (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari)
  • The Operating System of the web server (Linux or Windows)
  • The Server Application Software (PHP, ColdFusion, ASP, etc)
  • The database software (MySQL, MS SQL, Access, Oracle, etc.)
  • The Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress Or WebStores shopping cart
  • Numerous themes and plugins that extend the CMS such as shopping carts, calendars, form builders, security, etc.

In the past 6 years, we’ve also seen changes in mobile devises displaying websites, video becoming more robust, and of course, consumers demanding a better experience. The search engines of course change constantly as well, such as “Mobilegeddon” from Google 3 days ago – changing how Google displays search results on SmartPhones. Its a never-ending battle to keep everything in sync.

Like I said, it’s a wonder that a six year old site works at all! You should really do a complete website checkup every 6 months or so with all the moving pieces that are out there.

So do you need a website makeover? If you haven’t had a complete website redesign in the past 3 years, I can assure you that you will benefit from an update, and it will be much more than cosmetic. But while you are at it, it’s a good idea to go ahead and change the look and feel and add some new graphics to make your site more modern and pleasing – after all your customers expect this!