When businesses or startups need a website, the job usually falls under marketing: grab a plug-and-play template, work on “brand storytelling,” apply the latest graphic trends, and launch it. That’s what a website is, right?

This idea of “website as digital brochure” has been around for at least 20 years —  and it’s encouraged by the vast number of inexpensive, plug-and-play site-building platforms that promote it. After all, 10 years ago, it was a huge success to have a website at all!

But in today’s business climate, this approach has led businesses and startups astray. The “website as brochure” with an emphasis on brand story-telling is old school because it fails to help businesses innovate in a marketplace of uncertainty.

Modern websites and web apps help businesses and startups learn from the marketplace. They provide evidence about what products and services customers want to buy. They help companies make a sustained impact, through cycles of continuous innovation.

1. Modern websites and web apps are tools that help businesses learn about the market.

Old school sites told the story of the business to the market. Modern sites test hypotheses of what the market wants and use tools to listen and learn.

2. Modern sites and apps integrate with privacy-minded measurement and analytics tools that provide actionable metrics.

Old school sites focused on SEO to climb the search rankings for traffic. Modern sites use privacy-focused, finely tuned interactions to learn what interests and motivates the market.

3. Modern sites and apps enable rapid experiments through modular, component-driven architectures.

Old school sites were “build, then done” projects, rebuilt every 3 to 5 years. Modern sites support continuous change and improvement through interactive, data-rich, Lego-like components.

4. Modern sites and apps support ongoing change through robust testing.

Old school sites would go down under traffic or have bugs customers had to point out. Modern sites use testing frameworks that ensure quality and stability and alert teams when things go wrong.

Old school brochure sites don’t do the work that’s needed in today’s uncertain markets.