Future-proofing your website means readying it for growth and change. Technology changes all the time, and websites are no exception. Digital technology can move forward significantly in the time it takes to complete a web project. And if you don’t continue to critically review and improve your site, you run the risk of standing still, and spending more money on trying to keep up with this shifting technological landscape and trying not to fall behind your competitors. Future-proofing is also about getting the most from your initial investment – it’s generally more cost-effective to iteratively improve an existing website, rather than investing in a completely new one every 3-5 years.
So, how do you set up a future-proof website from the very beginning of the project?
1. Make it scalable
At any particular time, your website, the infrastructure and processes behind it might reflect where you are currently with your business, its wider goals and strategy, and the needs of your customers and/or audience. But what happens when things change? What if you grow, or diversify, or adapt your offering to a changing marketplace? You need to be able to ensure that your website is scalable and flexible enough not just to support your needs now, but also in the mid to long-term. Baking in this scalability at the very beginning of a website project sets you up for success further down the road, as well as enabling you to plan more effectively from a budget perspective. This involves everything from picking the right content management system (CMS) to setting out a design system for your project for how individual components will be built and dealt with. But as much as it’s about the what, it’s also about the how.
2. Adopt the right approach to development
Treating your website development as an ongoing project rather than a milestone is as much about process and mindset as it is about the product itself. A “traditional” digital project might adopt what we’d call a waterfall methodology – a linear approach wherein each stage depends on the former to progress. In contrast, agile methodology focuses on working to short-term deadlines and completing concurrent project phases in sprints – allowing for more fluidity and flexibility and changes in direction further down the line.
We won’t get too deep into all the pros and cons of agile vs waterfall here – this Forbes article does a great job of presenting the case for both – but we’ve found time and again that the agile methodology is the most effective way of structuring projects in order to build future-proof websites and digital products that are best set up to support growth. An agile approach unlocks more frequent releases, enabling you to create a roadmap to support continuous improvement.
3. Fine-tune rather than re-build
Re-building your website entirely from the ground up obviously takes a lot of time and significant investment. Taking this approach is incredibly cost-inefficient, and it also leaves you vulnerable to potential problems with capability and security (which we’ll get on to in a second) as well as trailing behind your competitors.
Planning and budgeting small, iterative updates rather than wholesale rebuilding every 5 or so years helps to ensure that you’re not only making the most out of your investment, but you’re also doing that all-important future-proofing.
4. Stay on top of security
Another risk behind treating a website as a “static asset” instead of an evolving thing is that over time it can become exposed to an ever-changing landscape of security threats. If your website isn’t supported and maintained correctly, you may miss updates to the core platform, extensions and security patches, leaving it vulnerable. 52% of WordPress vulnerabilities are caused by out-of-date plugins. Not being able to provide a safe, secure and reliable experience on your website could damage trust you have built with your audience. That’s not to mention that a breach can prove costly and may even lead to you losing access to your website and content you’ve created. Ensuring you have a process and the appropriate partner in place to properly support your website is key to ensuring you can continue to deliver a consistently secure experience, as well as protecting one of your key business assets.
Future-proofing your website isn’t a retroactive process – it should be built into its foundations. Setting yourself up with the scalability and flexibility to adapt and change at pace is the key to delivering a great digital experience, and being cost-effective while you do it.