I know it’s only April, but 2014 has already been a pretty momentous year. The Internet turned 25; my wife, Eliza, and I had our first baby; and I had my one-year anniversary as a project manager at Newfangled.
Over the last year, Eliza and I received an abundance of baby clothes, homemade meals, and child-rearing advice — both solicited and unsolicited. During the same period, I was growing into my role as project manager at Newfangled, and at first, that meant a lot of training and another big helping of advice: advice about how to build relationships with clients, advice about how to handle particularly complex technical issues, advice on keeping projects on schedule and on budget. Soon enough, though, it was my turn to start giving advice — this time to our clients.
Interestingly, one piece of parenting advice I received from a friend makes a lot of sense for our clients, who are sort of like parents to their sites.
This friend, who is a father, told me to “live week to week, prepare for five years down the road, and try not to worry too much about 25 years down the road.” What he was saying was deal with the day-to-day first. Do what you can to plan appropriately for the next few years. And, since it’s too hard to predict what this rapidly changing world will look like in 2039, don’t spend a ton of time and energy dwelling on it.
Finding that balance — the ability to focus your attention on the present moment as well as the not-so-distant future, without fretting about the far-off future — can be difficult for parents and business owners alike, but doing so is crucial. Let me give you an example that illustrates this.
Late last year, I was working with a client who was experiencing a variety of issues with his company’s website. The website was seven years old — which in website years, is like being a centenarian.
But despite the site’s age, the client didn’t have any plans to re-build the site. Instead, he wanted to address a number of issues individually. We reviewed the site, heard his pain points, and came to the most cost-effective solution: a redesign. There was pushback from the client, and despite encouraging him to look at other options, he decided to stay with his current site with a few changes — the “putting lipstick on a pig” approach. Essentially, at least as far his website was concerned, this client was putting far too much emphasis on the week-to-week concerns, without thinking about the middle term — that crucial 3-5 year timeframe.
As I enter into my second year with Newfangled, I continue to notice this trend of clients not thinking about what their site will need to do in the next five years. And I get it: the Internet, software, hardware, and the devices we use all are changing at a rapid pace. Just five years ago, responsive design wasn’t even a thing; today, it’s pretty much a standard requirement of new site builds. Website planning can be a source of stress and frustration, but website “parents” should actually take comfort in the fact that the average marketing website for agencies lasts three to five years.
There it is. You can live work week to work week, handling the daily joys and challenges as they arrive. And you don’t have to worry about the 25-year timeframe; the pace of technological change is just too fast. As the parental units charged with caring for and nurturing your website, what you really need to worry about is the 3-5 year outlook.