It’s 2021. Websites are sooooooo….2006. With social media dominating the way people consume content these days, what is the point of having a website today? I asked myself this question as I put the effort into reviving my dead website and I stand by the idea that having a website for yourself, project, or business is still relevant and necessary in the age of social media.
You Own Your Website
This is probably the most important reason to have a website. You can own it. You get to make all the decisions about it, decide what content goes up, what comes down, what it looks like, all of it.
Content ownership is the big reason why I revived my own blog and website, because I wanted to own the content itself. Posting on a shared site, or massive platforms like Medium or YouTube, you don’t own the platform or the direction of the platform. You are beholdant to the platform changes or mergers or whatever other sweeping change they make. When you own your site, you own the direction, and (assuming you keep backups) the whole content set is in your hands at all times.
With social platforms, if they change so do you. If they go down, so do you. If they rebrand or merge with another platform, so do you (hopefully).
The web, as a platform, is an open one that nobody owns. It’s portable and accessible with some basic development skills that can be acquired pretty easily and for free.
I’ve talked about the open web in my previous life (and posts) enough, but web technology is open, standards-driven, and can do almost anything you can think of (WebXR anyone?). The more work you put in, the more tailored your experience can be.
Hold Up! Social Platforms are free, web hosting co…
I’m just going to stop you right there.
I pay for my domain and the tooling for my website, but I don’t pay for the hosting. GitHub Pages does the hosting and they do it for free. Given, I don’t pull a ton of traffic and I’m sure I’d have to pay if my traffic were much higher. But that’s a good problem to have to solve, and it’s easily solved by turning your website into a business…so yeah. You’re good.
Website is your Universal Digital Home Base
Social media platforms are walled gardens or trash fires (depending on how you look at it). The keyword there is “walled”, such that a person trying to view your content has to climb to see it. Usually that wall is having an account, which doesn’t seem like a big ask, but why should they have to do anything to read what you’re sharing.
Think about that experience:
- Jane learns about this awesome blog written by David Wesst.
- [USER ACTION] Jane searches for “David Wesst Awesome Blog” on their favourite search engine, Bing.
- [USER ACTION] Jane clicks on the link presented to them to view the awesome blog.
- [USER ACTION] Jane is prompted to login to Facebook to view the blog.
- Jane is annoyed because they haven’t logged into Facebook in 4 years and doesn’t want to start today.
- Jane moves onto the next thing.
Instead of a search and click to view the blog, it’s a search, click, and login. And what for? So Facebook (or whatever flavour of social media host) can learn more about Jane? Is your content that good? If it is, why does Facebook get to gatekeep and set requirements on people that view your content?
This is why a website wins, it’s universal. You can even shave it down to one USER ACTION if Jane knows the URL.
Hold Up! You can adjust the settings on so it’s viewable from the public web
I know, but there are still gates to jump through if you want to explore the content further (which you probably do). Plus, the experience is filled with “JOIN US!” prompts along the way. What value does the user get out trying to get the user to login or create an account?
All that to say, social platforms make hurdle for your users, but that’s not to say you can’t get any value out of it.
Websites Compliment Social Platforms
If a website is your home base, then social platforms are the roads leading there.
I can’t find a social platform that doesn’t ask for a URL for your profile. This means that assuming you have a website, regardless of where someone hears about you, they will all land in the same place.
Not only that, but people can verify themselves that your Twitter account and Facebook Page are for the same thing! It’s a luxury to have the same username across all the social media platforms, and a website can help you link your social media presence together.
It even goes the other way, where someone who finds you on Facebook, heads to your website, and then learns that you have a Twitter account (or whatever) under a slightly different URL.
Like the heading says, they compliment one and another quite well.
The Largest Audience is the Whole Internet
This is my last reason, and it’s relevant. If you’re talking about size, the internet is bigger than a subset of the internet. It is the truth.
Social media platforms are communities where companies try to get you to hang out in their part of the internet. Some of the internet is not the whole internet.
Hold Up! The Social Networks Make My Content More Discoverable.
They very much do.
But, see my above point about how websites compliment social platforms. Maybe they never leave the social network to consume your content because you crosspost, the point is that they can and the original source for the content is owned by you.
Conclusion / TL;DR;
A website is important because it acts as a hub to send people, regardless of what platform they learn or hear about your idea. It’s like a business card or phone number, where you can leave it anyone to consume. Even in the cases where you don’t get to leave it, people can search you out via their search engine of choice if you get it setup. A website also compliments your social media presence, such that social media is the plumbing that leads people to your website where they can learn all about your idea.
It’s a win-win, even if it’s not what everyone is talking about when it comes how people “use the web” in 202x.