Web sites for businesses could well become a thing of the past!
I have been producing websites for small businesses since 1997. Now, it looks like they are being made redundant. This is due to the emergence of Web.2. and the rise of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Registering a domain name, designing and building a web site, organising the hosting and maintaining the content is a costly and time-consuming activity. Many people are now claiming that these ‘social networking’ sites are making small, free-standing web sites obsolete. Is this just hype?
As a big user of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and of course blogs, I have seen for myself just how valuable these utilities have been. Having used them all, I have seen a huge growth in traffic to one of the web sites I run. I wouldn’t say they have replaced the need for a web site, but they have proven to be very valuable at complementing my web site and driving traffic to it.
I have seen people using apps like WordPress and Joomla as solutions to the need for a DIY web presence, with varying degrees of success. I guess that businesses that have gone down this road have saved themselves a great deal of money.
Web design has been (and still is) a technical skill. Many people believe that they have the skills to be successful web designers but I still regularly find appallingly bad web sites. Home made web sites tend to be poorly constructed because there are so many aspects to web design you cannot learn on your own. There are many courses that teach people how to use things like ‘Dreamweaver’ but don’t teach the basic technical requirements of good website design practice.
Another thing that successful business sites need is success in the search engines. Over recent years we have seen the rapid growth of experts offering “search engine optimisation”. So, many a poor business person has spent a couple of thousand pounds or dollars or euros having a web site made, only to be presented with another bunch of bills for optimising it for Google and other search engines.
So, why didn’t the web designers build in optimisation in the first place? It stems back, in my view, to the lack of professional standards and training in the industry. Any kid can download a copy of Dreamweaver or Front Page and start making web sites. They don’t go on courses. Some might read online courses. The end result is a site that fails miserably to meet any of the design standards you might expect of professional and experienced designers.
So will we see the end of small web sites? Quite possibly. People will become more and more expert in the art of the Tweet, the craft of using Facebook and the science of blogging. These applications can work a lot faster and more effectively that the old HTML page.
Footnote: Experts are claiming that by 2012, there will be more mobile devices than PCs. More and more people will access the WWW by something other than a laptop or desk top computer. That means that we all have to re-learn what web sites are all about.
Blogging and web sites
Blogging probably sparked the emergence of Web.2. It remains a popular and effective means of getting content on the Internet. Whilst blogs can support and enrich free-standing web sites, they need not replace them, where they already exist.
Now we need to figure out the inter-relationship of free-standing web sites, blog and social networking facilities. They are not mutually exclusive alternatives. They are complementary methods for enhancing the power of the Internet.
For over 12 years I have been producing free-standing web sites for small businesses and organisations. They have all met with varying degrees of success. Since I started doing this in 1997, the Internet has changed enormously. We now have Web.2., a second generation of the Internet in which blogs and social networking sites have taken over much of what web sites used to do.
There is still a role for static web pages; that now is to support and enhance the more interactive elements of the web, like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked-in and many more.
I have a very large web site – Arts in Leicestershire magazine – that is linked to a large number of social networking accounts, including the two blogs that I run. Driving visitors to this web site has been phenomenally successful, combined with a very high rate of success in coming in the top ten results for major search engines.
We could not have run a site of that size without its own domain name and hosting but neither would it have attracted such as high number of readers had we replied solely on search engine results.