Over the past 15 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with a plethora of clients on a variety of projects. Time and time again we come up against the same question, “Can you fix it, or should we start from scratch?” It’s a question that requires a lot of investigation and thought, as either option can save or cost your company a lot of money.
Think of your Website as a custom built car or a house. The cost to fix, repair, or add something depends on the age, quality of materials, and complexity of the update. If your car/house is in good shape, can easily handle the work, it’s typically worth the hassle of refurbishing it to its old glory and fix your website. If not, it’s often less risky and more cost effective to start a web project with new parts and cutting edge technology.
Benefits of Starting from Scratch
Our team gets very excited for new projects built from scratch, or what we call a Greenfield Project. These projects provide our team with the ability to evaluate all solutions and choose the one that best fits our clients’ needs and goals. It also gives us the ability to set realistic expectations in terms of how things will work, how long it will take us to complete, and how much it will cost.
Trying to modify another vendor’s code can often cause unforeseen issues; impacting the budget and timeline of the project. We don’t enjoy telling client’s bad news when we uncover holes in their “old car” or telling them “their foundation is cracked.” When implementing new features, or further fixes, we can discover the “floor rot” that needs to be fixed first, adding to the cost of the simple enhancement.
Keeping Your Work
However, this doesn’t mean that you should start from scratch every single time. We are constantly updating and enhancing our clients sites without rebuilding the entire thing. Some Website and Applications are built using best practices and quality code that, like some cars, last for a long time. If your site has a solid foundation, it can be more cost effective to update the site instead of scrapping the entire thing. Make sure your site is thoroughly reviewed to see if it can be fixed.
Keep in mind that not all issues and “black holes” are clearly visible or uncovered until you really get into the project. Sometimes we say the body is in good condition, only to find out there’s water in the oil later down the line (for those not into cars, that’s very bad news). If we sandblast off the parts and find gaping holes and rot, you better have deep pockets to fix it, or be willing to scrap it when we find out.
In some cases a small simple site can be fully evaluated, but a custom application with millions of lines of code is virtually impossible to fully evaluate economically.
Questions to Consider
There are some items you should take into consideration when determining whether to fix what you currently have or develop a new website from scratch.
- What version of software was it built in? How long will it be supported? If ending support soon, may be more cost effective to rebuild now.
- How much custom code was developed? The more, the more risk, while bigger cost of building new.
- Who built it in the first place? A professional firm using a domestic team? Offshore team? Freelance developer? Internal employee no longer working there? We typically can stereotypically see a correlation to the quality of what we’re dealing with.
- Has the Application been continually maintained with the latest security patches? Lapses can expose the site to hacks and backdoors that could be leveraged at a later time.
Still not sure if you should fix your site or develop a new website from scratch? Give us a shout and we’ll help you evaluate your current site as well as your needs, goals, and vision for the update to determine if a greenfield project is the right move for you.