Experts have pointed out that the internet has gone through several different historical phases, though they all define them differently. It’s commonly phrased and told in different ways, but each interpretation tells the history of digitizing information to making the technology publicly available. For all intents and purposes, there was first the era of uploading information onto the internet. Soon after, there was the personal computer age, where we started seeing the internet become ultimately available to everyone. And of course, now everything is mobile-based, due to the app and cloud-based technologies that seem to run the world.

This oversimplification is, of course, a great disservice to the actual, long, vast history of the internet and personal computing, and how they’ve changed and affected our world. However, that’s not the point.

Somewhere around the end of the first phase mentioned and the beginning of the second, you were considered hot stuff for owning a website. For a while there, it seemed like every investor was emptying their pockets into anyone who ran a website, and it was dubbed the “dot-com bubble.” However, it was never sustainable, and the internet’s offer of information access for everyone turned the dot-com boom into a kind of economic crisis — a dot-com crash. Some websites were still able to make a lot of money, but once everyone was able to own a website, the whole thing became oversaturated and the value decreased.

Now, having a website is no biggie. It’s like having a toaster. With the app and cloud boom, social media is seemingly doing some of the jobs websites used to. For instance, people commonly visit an organization’s social media page before their website. Because of this, some have questioned the point of a website is in 2018. Is it even worth it?

Are Websites Dead?

The longevity of personal or branded websites has been frequently debated. A few years ago, it was looking like websites as we knew them would be dead. Due to the rise of social media and less demand for call-to-action links due to pirated media sites, entertainers stopped building websites and began pointing people to their Facebook pages as the frontline of their marketing. Some that kept their websites were more active on Twitter and Instagram than their personal blogs. Some people (like this writer at Forbes) thus came to the conclusion that websites, of course, had no place in this current age.

That’s not quite true though. To use an online dating metaphor, social media is similar to a dating app. It’s a good first impression, and you can interact with it, but it’s not the same as going on an actual date. Websites are more of the actual date — they’re where you get to know someone. If someone likes what’s being posted on social media, they may go to the website to investigate further. On top of this practical, more common sense answer, however, it also offers credibility and is important for looking professional.

Additionally, many goods and services are now being offered via website, when historically in the past these things were only available in person. This can include doing something as simple as getting a ride from the airport, to something more complex, like pursuing a degree.

Why Else Are Websites Seemingly Less Popular?

The website isn’t dead — but it hasn’t been competing with social media well. Timmermann Group, a marketing company out of St. Louis, argues that the website is not dead but does often fall short on terms of user experience.

“Your website should be the core of your marketing and lead generation strategies … Driving traffic toward your website is futile if your website is a dead-end for customers. This has been made clear in the shift in emphasis from “web design” to user experience design. Your website should look good, but if it doesn’t deliver a good experience for the user, it won’t deliver the leads you need.”

In short, if people go to your website, they should have an easy and informative experience there. Timmerman calls it the top lead generator, but in essence, if a visitor has trouble with your website, they may not come back. People aren’t incredibly patient — and why should they be if they can get your product elsewhere and easier? Make sure that your website is updated with current software and accounts for changes by Google and other search engines, because not doing so may make your site no longer relevant.

The Touchpoint Aspect of Websites

The contact between a potential customer and a seller is vitally important. People are cautious nowadays. They like to check out who they’re buying from before going for a product by someone they aren’t familiar with. As noted by CallRail, one of the most important things a website offers is being that form of contact — also known as a touchpoint. Social media is a touchpoint as well, but for in-depth, important information, a website is typically a better point of reference. FAQs and specific email addresses (like to specific departments such as marketing or press) are typically reached through websites, not social media.

Websites are interesting for this reason. They’re no longer where people go first to explore a brand, and in some ways they’ve seemingly taken a back seat to social media. But they are still so vitally important, even when they’re not publicly addressed. They play such an important role in brand loyalty and conversion, it’s a shame they’re overlooked. If you understand your website’s place in 2018 though, you’ll avoid feeling like it’s a waste of space and be able to use it to your benefit like you should be doing.

How do you think websites changing focus has affected their relevance? We’d love to hear your opinion. Please share it in the comments below!


Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.