Are websites becoming obsolete?

Are Facebook business pages and Twitter stories obliterating the need for businesses and individuals to have a website? I see this happening quite a lot now – a business builds themselves a Facebook page and this becomes their only online presence. Is it a good idea for a company to maintain their online presence using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram only? It’s a question worth asking because businesses are increasingly doing this but I think it’s still important to have a proper website and here’s why.

  1. All Facebook pages look the same. There are few options for individuality and creativity there. Sure you can add a profile picture and header image but beyond that it looks like any other Facebook page.
  2. The URL is not easily remembered. The first lesson in Domains 101 is to choose an address that’s easy to remember and easy to spell. Facebook pages have a URL that looks like this https://www.facebook.com/BusinessName/?rf=123451234512345.
  3. If a customer wants to contact you through an online channel they are forced to create a Facebook account. With a website you can add a contact form which doesn’t require an account with a third-party service.
  4. You can publish regular news stories on a web site and these persist over time. Twitter stories by comparison have a shelf-life of about 10 minutes. Once they’ve gone from your stream they disappear into an abyss, never to be seen again, unless you make a note of the URL but as with Facebook pages, a Twitter story URL is not easily remembered. Facebook posts last a bit longer than 10 minutes but they also have a short shelf-life.

This is not to say that social media networks are not important because they are. I just don’t think they should replace a proper web site. With a website you can customise it any way you like. You can make it completely original and unlike anything else on the internet. You get to choose the address. You have complete control. You can also publish regular articles to your site and share these to social media networks. These will persist on your site and in search engine results for years. Anyone can read these articles and they do not need to have an account with a third-party company. Customers and visitors to your site can also contact you without creating an account somewhere else first.

What do you think? Are websites becoming obsolete? I definitely don’t think so but maybe I’m biased.

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Interesting. I wondered if blogging might go the same way when Medium appeared – making blogs into a common experience rather than individually designed – but they then shot themselves in the foot with a walled garden commercial model (which all the platforms seem to do when they think they’ve reached critical mass). I like the decentralised foundation of the web – it prevents any one player dictating the rules. Of course the underpinnings of that have just been torn up in the US (with the repeal of net neutrality), but I tend to side with you – I *like* that websites are unique, even though certain design patterns are common.

    1. I think WordPress.com is the best platform for blogging. I do sometimes read articles on Medium but none of my blogging friends are there so it’s not something I use regularly.

  2. Personally, I don’t like to mix business with social media. I use Facebook to connect with friends, so I prefer to use actual web sites. I’ll use Twitter to access a company’s web site.

    1. Yes, that’s a good strategy. The only reason I’m on Facebook is because my Australian-based family demanded it. I have left the platform in frustration twice in the past only to reluctantly return. I would rather not use it at all so I may ditch it again one day. My husband doesn’t use it at all.

  3. I guess most businesses think that most people are on Facebook. So they create their business page there.

    This is also why my son’s school teacher moved their class updates and photos from a private WordPress blog to Facebook this year. I somehow did not choose to convince her move to WordPress. Because I felt like her concern is valid. She felt more engagement from parents on Facebook.

    Sharing to a private Facebook group is easier than sharing to a private blog using WordPress app. Plus most parents and families are already on Facebook. So they don’t need an additional WordPress account to get to know the kids school updates.

    1. They are probably right to assume most people are on Facebook because they are but at the same time they alienate the people who are not on it, like my husband. I think it’s terrible that schools rely on Facebook to communicate with families. There must be a better way. Our school does it as well and I hate it. When I moved here I never used Facebook but now I’m forced to use it for school messages.

      1. I’m so impressed to see your school uses WordPress.com. That’s great! How are they hosting the class blogs? Are they using a commercial provider?

  4. The question reminds me of the way my children find email antiquated/more formal than the messaging they are more used to. I think Facebook is handy for very small businesses who are already struggling to cover all the fundamentals of their businesses (I’m thinking local restaurants and cafes). I prefer a website for cafes, it’s usually difficult to see what the menus are on Facebook.

    1. I also find email a bit old fashioned and prefer other ways to communicate but there are more options than Facebook. Blogs are good way, for instance. But it’s true that Facebook is very easy for businesses to use and it’s likely for this reason that they opt for Facebook instead of a proper website.

  5. I think most businesses go to Facebook or even start with Facebook with no other online presence whatsoever is simply because that’s where their customer is. At least, the majority of the customers that they want to reach, are already on Facebook. This makes it easy for them to reach their intended audience. And if they spend a little bit of money what they would have otherwise spent on creating a website (domain, hosting, etc), they can put ads on Facebook which is sure to be a success if the targeting is done correctly.

    Then there’s the maintenance. Even when the initial ‘setting up a website’ stage is over, there is the ‘hassle’ (that’s how most people perceive it) of continuously updating a website and putting out content. Most business owners are already familiar with how Facebook works, and it doesn’t take too long for them to figure out how to operate a Business Page on Facebook either.

    So, while I agree with the points that having a website is always a good idea that makes a brand stand out from thousands of similar Facebook pages, the reasons why most people don’t bother with creating a website these days are also obvious. Our generation is lazy. We have a short attention span. We don’t want to learn and do things. The same goes for business owners for they are humans too. If a Facebook page is enough to reach the majority of their audience, why bother spending time creating and maintaining a website?

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head – it’s much easier to set up a Facebook page and maintain it than to create a web site. I wish that wasn’t the case and am wondering what we can do to turn this around? It shouldn’t be as hard as it is to create a web site.

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