Recently, the French and millions around the world experienced the collective mourning for the loss of our cultural history and familiar experience when a fire roared through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. There was a shared gasp with the collapse of the iconic spire.
Even if you’ve never set foot into Notre Dame, you probably realize that Victor Hugo’s famous character, Quasimodo, lived in one of its towers. You may have seen in photographs the recognized gargoyles that have guarded Notre Dame since it was built 850 years ago during the Middle Ages. Or, you might remember it from your history classes the cathedral as the location where both Mary Queen of Scots and Napoleon were crowned.
Whatever you may or may not know of all the secrets and history that Notre Dame Cathedral held within its edifice, we know that it will be rebuilt over the coming decade or more. From a cultural and historical perspective, this is important to the French as it is to people around the world who care about the past and cultural significance of the iconic cathedral. But, the rebuild already poses a dilemma.
For generations, there has been a thought experience that has been confounding thinkers, and it is called the Ship of Theseus Paradox. The “ship” represents an object. The paradox has two components to it. The first is if the pieces of Theseus ship begin to rot and you replace aspects of the boat because they have become old, worn or have been destroyed, then when you’re finished replacing these parts of the ship, is the boat the original or is it a new ship?
The second element of this metaphysical thought experiment for consideration is that you suppose that you have removed pieces of the ship for preservation. You want to ensure that the wooden boat of the fearless warrior Theseus is not destroyed and you await technology that will ensure its protection. You get to a point where you can reconstruct the ship, and it will stand the test of time and not rot away. The question is this: will the restored ship be the original boat only with newly treated elements?
Let’s get back to the reconstruction of Notre Dame. People have already started to wonder if the restoration of Notre Dame will, in fact, provide the world with the “same” Notre Dame even though many elements will likely remain, such as the iconic bell towers or the rose windows, but alot of the aspects of the building will be new.
Now, consider your website. Think about what’s been done to it since you built it. Perhaps you’ve changed some of the language because you’ve repositioned your brand in some way. Maybe you have added new products and services on your website. Or, you decided along the way to freshen up your site with new pictures or elements.
When you change your website, even in small ways, with time, you have a different site. You may have wording or images that are not consistent on the whole from one page to the next. This inconsistency can be apparent to people who visit it. You might have functionality that has changed––perhaps a form that works one way on one page, but differently on another page. This disparity can be confusing to the people who go to your site.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to consider if you need a website redesign if you realize that elements of your site have changed since you first created it. If you do think that your site may require a rework, to get started consider the five elements that you will have to make sure are included. Remember, keep the Ship of Theseus Paradox in your mind when you make even small changed to your website. The chances are that if you keep on doing it without consideration for how it changes the entire site, you may well end up with a different website that you may not have intended.
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