I have what I call a low-profile Instagram account. I use this mostly to keep myself in the loop of what people I admire (mostly musicians) is up to and for the endless stream of jokes. I still set my profile to public and used my real name for the account but I’ve never told a single soul about my profile and yet, barely a week after I set up the account, people I went to high school and college with began following my account. It can be really easy to find people or businesses you’re looking for online.
Given this, it’s common to see businesses forgoing website entirely and simply limit their presence to the various social media platforms available. With the sheer amount of social media platforms available, you can bet that each slice of the population is properly served by at least one platform and on a purely technical level; businesses don’t need a website for customer’s reference. Then again, I don’t technically need Spotify to listen to music but there’s no way I’m cancelling my Premium subscription. In a way, website and web development occupies that same position in that they’re vital to the success of your business.
Having a place to call your own
For me personally, having my own personal space is important, both metaphorically and physically. Every month, I always try to dedicate a single weekend where I can be in a place where no one I know will ever find me. Even if it’s technically a public place, it’s always nice to carve your own corner of the world that just for a moment belongs to you. There’s this unassuming coffee shop near where I live for example that even on the weekends is never full that I regularly use if I don’t feel like making a trip.
In a way, this is what I consider websites to be, your own little corner of the internet that belongs to you. Your business’ website is your business’ personal space while by comparison; your Instagram or Facebook page is like your seat in the theater. Yes, technically it’s your space but it’s also cramped and you’re still very much in close proximity with the other patrons. Websites could offer your business the kind of freedom and flexibility that social media platforms couldn’t, and this freedom could help your business in 4 different ways.
Websites help lend a sense of professionalism
Anyone can open Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/(Insert social media platform here) and open an account there but to set up a website and everything that goes with a website requires considerably more commitment. Of course, there’s an ocean of difference between a well-thought-out and properly designed website and something that looks like as if it’s been assembled together in less than 10 minutes so having a website for the sake of having website won’t be enough. Think of having a website as going to a job interview wearing your best clothes and you won’t be too far off the mark.
Websites give you the freedom on contents
For example, many moons ago Instagram requires every image uploaded on the platform to have the shape of a square. That restriction no longer applies but there are still some limitations on what you could post on Instagram, like video lengths and how you can’t include external links on your post. Yes, you could argue that for videos, you have access to YouTube and Vimeo but those platforms have limitations of their own and there’s not a single social media that could reliably accommodate everything you’ll ever need.
Websites aren’t perfect, especially if you’re sticking to a pre-existing theme, but they have much less restrictions on what you could do compared to social media platforms and you could still include contents from your social media feed to your website if you want to. Dedicated websites are especially useful if you have the capability to create interactive contents. For those working in the creative industry, the restrictions on social media platforms can be particularly suffocating.
They’re practically required for businesses dealing in e-commerce
Have you ever tried ordering stuff online through e-mails or texts? I have and it was a bit annoying. There was this boutique watchmaker I’m interested in but it turns out that one of the items they have on display on their Instagram account isn’t available on their website. I asked them about this over text and it turns out they do have that particular item available, just not on their website. I ended up having to order it through text where I have to write the detailed specification of the item, my personal details, etc.
If you’re in the business of selling things, you are practically required to have a website and regularly updates said website when you have new things in stock or when a particular product is sold out. Having to go through that laborious process of ordering through text over and over again is just annoying. For example, take a look at what Undone Watches have done, where customers and potential customers could customize their watches through their website and see how it’d look like in real time instead of having to list their preferred specifications.
They’re now made easier with website builders
There’s the ubiquitous WordPress for one but if you’re looking for something more minimalist and classy, take a look at what Squarespace or Wix is capable of. Squarespace and Wix highly values simplicity and accessibility while being aesthetically pleasing. Both Squarespace and Wix are very easy to use but you’re going to have to sacrifice some degree of customization, which is somewhat similar to how Apple controls their platforms. These platforms also comes equipped with a tool to help with the more complex idea of SEO or to set up an e-commerce site, which can be a boon for business owners that have a limited understanding of web development.