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Site Longevity

Posted on Friday 3rd February 2012 at 12:38
I spent much of this week building a WordPress theme for a client. It wasn't a brand new theme, in fact, it was identical to the existing theme.

The reason for the rebuild was that the original theme had been built in 2009 and wasn't put together in a way that accurately reflected the progression in browser support for web standards. At the time it was built, it worked reasonably well on the browsers that were available at the time, but it didn't adopt many best practices and it didn't cater for any changes that were expected, either in newer browsers or in WordPress itself.

The result of this was that after less than 3 years, the site simply stopped working. It was impossible to upgrade the WordPress installation, there were error messages all over the admin area, and the public facing part of the site had numerous errors in styling and a drop-down menu that simply didn't work in some browsers.

Had I built the original theme, I would have fixed it for free, as the design itself wasn't due for replacement and the errors were all down to bad coding. Sadly though, the original developer was no longer available, and the client ended up having to pay MRG Web Development to fix something that shouldn't have been broken.

Although browser and server technology is regularly changing, it isn't generally hard to predict where it is going, as web standards tend to be developed slowly over a number of years. Whilst backwards compatibility is very important, it's no less important to ensure that a website is still going to work with the standards that are due to be introduced, as well as those that have expired.

We aim to build sites that will comfortably last up to 4 years without technical problems. Most websites have their designs refreshed every 3-4 years, so this ensures that our clients can choose to have a new look to their website when they are ready, without being forced to make changes because of more and more technical problems.

I feel that this should be a minimum standard that all web developers meet. I hope that most of them do, but unfortunately there are still many cowboys in this industry.

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About the author

Mark Glover is a Freelance Web Developer, based in Fleet, Hampshire, United Kingdom. He writes about topics related to web development and the wider tech industry. You can message him any time on Twitter or by email.
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