How many web site redesigns have Harrisburg-based statewide associations gone through since 2000?
Rough average? 4.2
That’s if you include the design they had in 2000, and the design they have today. Using archive.org, we went through over 20 Harrisburg association websites’ design histories to come up with that.
We defined a website design/redesign as the following:
- The website layout appearance had to be structurally and significantly different than the previous website layout; and/or
- The site navigation had to be structurally and significantly different than the previous website navigation; and/or
- The site content management system had to be structurally and significantly different than the previous website CMS.
The fewest design versions we saw for an association was three; the most were six. There are so many reasons why an association may redesign their website, and many are specific to the organization, such as vision refocusing, content expansion, and budget.
But some are clearly to technology shifts that have occurred on web site design, which many of these site changes reflected. Those changes are:
Still the Beginning (pre-2000). In the beginning, almost everyone used flat html. They designed for those small screen/big box monitors we all used to have. A good chunk of the viewing public was using dialup, so load speed was critical. And then…
2000-2007. Higher speed and wider monitors. All of a sudden, web site designers felt less constrained by that 640X480 pixels postage stamp we were working with, and people were using higher speed connectivity, which meant bigger images, and video, and larger scripts could be used. And almost everyone moved, some sooner than others, some more often than others.
2008-2013. Here comes CMS. Still, most were using either flat html, or .shtml, or a rudimentary content management system (who remembers FrontPage?). Around 2008, content management systems became more big business, and the market started winnowing towards what we have today. During this time, associations felt more comfortable to “make their pick” of a CMS, realizing that it might be a long-term decision but they needed to make their site content management more accessible to more staff, and more easily offer varying levels of access (public versus members) to site content with
2014 to today. Mobile. BUT these CMS had expanded sophistication which meant that most associations didn’t have the ability internally to upgrade the design if a design change was demanded. And by the mid two-thousand-teens, a design change WAS demanded – responsive design for the device accessing the site. Mobile access was increasing quickly and had to be accounted for, and designs changed again. Some CMS was more flexible for this change than others, and didn’t necessarily result in a design change. But many did.
Almost all the design changes we saw occurred in the earlier parts of these time windows. These weren’t the only triggers for website design change, and some may not have been major spurs to change at all. But they do fit a historical reading of major web site changes.
What’s next? There are a LOT of association sites out there nearing 5 years of design age. The CMS marketplace is going through a lot of technology change on the user/admin side which very well could lead to another wave of web redesigns for associations. Security issues are aggressively growing EVERYWHERE online, and that may very well come into play as well. Voice browsing (hello Alexa, hello Siri) is probably going to make big ripples in everyday web development in the near future.
And what might be most important for associations: your membership includes a whole generation plus that have ONLY worked in the Internet era. Paper ways still are disappearing.
The point is – budget for that approximately 4.6 years design life span. Associations don’t have to spend it, but they shouldn’t be surprised by it, either. Your own association’s history is there for the reference.
(For reference, these are the associations we reviewed for this article:
Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, The Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, Pennsylvania Retailer’s Association, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, Pennsylvania Association for Government Relations, Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, Pennsylvania Head Start Association, Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, Pennsylvania Boroughs Association, Pennsylvania Telephone Association, Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society, Pennsylvania Society of Gastroenterology, Pennsylvania Prison Society, Pennsylvania Society for Association Excellence, Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants)