Are you looking at your blog or website and thinking that you don’t like the way it looks any more?  Perhaps, even considering that a design change will make your site more successful?  

The reasons to why you are doing this can be complicated. In some cases, you could be looking to incorporate modern technology or methods that were unavailable when you first built your site. This is a great reason, especially if it enhances the user experience.

Another reason that is popular for changes, is having spotted a design on another site that your really like and just want to copy it.  This type of change brings nothing new to the table, but the more you think about it, the more important it become and the less you start to think of your current site.

This is Perceived Obsolescence.

Perceived Obsolescence is when a customer is convinced, that he / she needs an updated product, even though his /her existing product is working well. This is often based on style rather than functionality.

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Desirability and Perceived Obsolescence is a powerful driver in the Web Agency business model. Where you can bank on a client changing their digital presence in regular cycles, even if no data suggest that these changes will help drive business.  

As a survivor of Agency Life, I can tell you that this design process can be painful and unfulfilling, often without much in the way of profit margins, especially at small agencies.  That said, since design is so personal to people and not always grounded in rationality, it is a powerful tool for building relationships. These relationships are what really build your business.  So rejecting this work outright can kill your business.

So if people are making design decisions and spending money unnecessarily, what as web professionals should we be doing to put an end to this wasteful practice?

We cannot put the onus on the customer.  Perceived Obsolescence is pervasive. It drives a lot of how money is spent.  We cannot expect it to go away, although I think some amount of education on the subject is useful.

While the customer is always right, isn’t it our responsibility to give them as much information as possible before they make a decision?  Asking them what they think design changes will accomplish before moving forward and then trying to steer them away from the unnecessary.

This can be done by building a system centered around popular and results \-oriented design patterns and centering all work around what they should do, rather than what they could do. You will be leaving some design money on the table, but this is money that could be better spent by the customer on more effective and strategic pursuits (or could just stay in their pocket).