Sure there are times when a website should be made over. My problem is that I get grand visions and think I should revamp my flagship InDepthInfo. And indeed, I do it. I just recently did it again. You can see the results of my new “definitive” format on the series of articles I just did on carrots. I like it, but I am not sure that it is a great advance over my previous formulations.
The problem with redoing my behemoth InDepthInfo’s hundreds of pages, is that this site is not on mysequel or a database of any kind. It is all hard coded. To make things easier I long ago added an SSI capability, but this will not allow me to easily make radical changes. To switch over the entire website to the new format would take me several months of solid work. So I end up just keeping the old look, and the look before that and the look before that, ad infinitum.
All this leaves me vaguely dissatisfied with the lack of continuity. I am sure that eventually I will get up the gumption to do a redo that covers the entire site and puts all the content in a database (so I don’t have to change the code on EVERY page). When will that be? Probably not very soon in spite of the advantages of doing so. InDepthInfo is not very well branded. In fact that is a legacy of my original intentions. In 1998-99 I thought I would make a series of sites all on the same domain about different subjects in which I was interested. At the time it was $30.00 to register a domain and the remuneration, even for significant traffic was not, well…significant. Each part of InDepthInfo would stand on its own but benefit from the connections to the other sites. This actually worked, and still has some effect today. But now branding has become far more important and unifying the disparate parts of the website makes business sense.
If I have any advice for anyone creating a new large website, make use of databases. Truthfully, I don’t think it matters much for a site that only consumes ten or twenty pages. In fact, in those cases it can be better to be a bit more free-wheeling. But when you start getting into the hundreds of pages, it is almost, almost a must.