It’s 2020 – Do I Still Need A Website?
Maybe it’s because I’m a website developer, but I get asked occasionally if having a website is still one of those NECESSARY things you have to have. The further we get with web technologies and platforms, however, the more I could possibly maybe see the need for something that’s not a website.
People stream games on Twitch.
Creators make videos to publish on YouTube.
Streamers and Influencers run communities on Discord or Facebook Groups.
They all exist on large, independent platforms and are, for the most part, self-sufficient*. People have had great success on all of these platforms without seeing the need for their own website.
Then Vs Now
That was then, however. Even going back a few years, the landscape has changed dramatically. Twitch, for example, has been criticized for its seemingly arbitrary rule enforcement. YouTube demonetized all but top-viewed channels several years ago, and even now the rules ebb and flow between impacting creators positively or negatively. Ultimately, the bottom line remains the same: if you use someone else’s platform, you are the product, not the customer.
It may make me a bit of a ‘tinfoil hat wearer’ to say all of these things, but channels and profiles have been shut down for much less. Beyond that, I personally think that every person deserves at least a small slice of the web to call their own. As technology increases, the costs of having your own website become less and less. If you were looking for a hard, concrete answer, let me give it to you. Yes, I believe everyone needs their own website, even in 2020.
The Benefits of a Website
Beyond it being ‘your space’, there are several benefits to having a website of your very own:
- You can create a space that has your branding, your voice, and your style. This goes beyond just designing a header image or fitting Twitch panels into their system. You can, with the right plugins and integrations, do anything you want on your website.
- Your website is not just a ‘one-trick pony’. Want to sell merchandise? Want to set up a blog? Start a podcast? Build a community? All of these things are possible when you create your own website (and all of them are definitely possible if you use a Content Management System like WordPress to build it – but more on that in a bit.)
- If you decide to pivot, your website can change without changing your ‘source of truth’. A ‘single source of truth’ means that you have ONE hub that you’ve designated to be the center of attention. If you are a streamer, and want to focus your time doing YouTube videos instead, your website can change to reflect that without changing the location of the content – people will go to your same website URL regardless of what you are doing.
- It’s a way to show professionalism. Having a website shows people you are serious about what you want to do. Someone who just has a Twitch profile or YouTube channel is not necessarily unprofessional, but having a website is a step into transitioning into a ‘business’ mindset.
- SEO: If you’re not familiar, this stands for ‘search engine optimization’ – you can get noticed on Google due to your website, especially if people are searching for your name – this gives them a ‘one stop shop’ to find everything they need to know about you!
- Bonus features. Since you have to have a URL to have a website, you can take the next step and get a firstname.lastname@example.org email address – it sort of goes with the above point, but it’s a small thing that you can do to show people you are serious about your business.
OK, How Can I Start A Website?
To be honest, this itself is an entirely different blog post. But let’s go into some of the basics – you have an idea for a website, a business, a shop… how can you get your concepts online and selling instead of just tumbling around inside your head?
Step 0: Come Up With A Name, and Buy The Domain & Hosting Space
You may think to yourself, “Mitch, I already have a name – it’s X or Y”. Do you own that domain name? Does someone else own it? If the answers to those questions are ‘no’ and ‘yes’, respectively, then you’ve got some work to do. What can you do to get the domain closest to your name. Someone like “Destiny” is obviously going to have trouble acquiring destiny.com, but adding a simple ‘gg’ (to make it destiny.gg) is both on-brand and ensures he’s able to get the domain he wants.
Purchasing a domain is even easier. NameCheap, my preferred domain seller, actually has has a deal going on where you can get a FREE domain when you buy Shared hosting (Affiliate Link). In case you’re confused, think of the domain as the ‘address’, and the ‘hosting space’ as the actual plot of land you’re putting down your roots – you need both, and buying them together will make (usually) everything ‘just work’.
Step 1: Install WordPress
I love WordPress. It powers 30%+ of the internet, and there’s a LOT of great support for it out there. Plus, if you used the service I mentioned above (NameCheap), they have ‘one-click installation’ processes for WordPress – that means that you click a button, answer a few questions, and you’ll have your very own website ready to go in a matter of minutes.
Step 2: Find A Theme
Don’t go crazy with this for now – a simple, basic theme that you can include your branding in is the best option for you at this stage. Go to the WordPress Theme Repository and find one of the free themes that look good for your purposes. You can install it straight inside of WordPress – there’s no need to know how to install themes via FTP or any of that jazz. Once you’ve done that, look in the options panel and upload your logo (if you have one) or change the site to match your branding
Step 3: Add Some Content
For the VERY basics, I would include the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why:
- Who: A brief introduction of you and what you do.
- What: Why should anyone pay attention to you?
- When & Where: Link out to your social platforms. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually embed content from them (such as a Twitter Timeline) into your site. Otherwise, a simple link will suffice.
- Why: Why do you do what you do? Add in a piece that shows you aren’t just a robot out to make money. People like to deal with people that are like them.
This is a very, very simplified list, but the basics are still the same no matter how complex the website: get a domain, get hosting, start WordPress, and add in the content. Even in today’s web, a website has a standing and power that ‘profiles’ or ‘channels’ on other platforms lack – it’s a spot you have full control over, and one where you can showcase exactly what makes you (a content creator, a business, or even just a person) so special.
* Personally, I don’t think Twitch is as self-sufficient as any of the other sites, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. Making it on Twitch requires creating content on other networks, which (while it isn’t necessarily a bad thing) makes it not self-sufficient.