Your Website is More Important Than Social Media

Social media has been ubiquitous in our lives since the dawn of the Internet – even if it wasn’t always called that. Before platforms like Twitter and Instagram there was MySpace or Neopets. Before that chat rooms and forums ruled the world. The landscape of the wild worldwide web is ever-changing. How will you maintain a consistent online brand?

Your social media accounts don’t belong to you

The harsh reality of social media is that none of these platforms belong to you. They belong to huge corporations who, at the end of the day, couldn’t care less about you and your content. Beyond using it to make money to line their own pockets, of course!

In the long run, you have very little control over what happens to your content and your audience on social media. Platforms change their algorithms. They favour paid advertisement over organic content. And sometimes even they lose their key audiences (remember when Facebook wasn’t a platform for your mom and aunts?).

If your favourite social media site went down, would your friends know where to find you?

Imagine that you’ve worked for years to build a substantial audience on a single platform. You most likely will have more audience members than you could ever dream of remembering and they likely follow a few hundred creators themselves. You’ve put in the blood, sweat and tears to grow this audience and then one day… the platform goes bust. Every server is wiped. Every byte of it is gone.

Would your audience know where to find you? Would the people you consider to be friends know where to find you?

Think of your website as a long term investment

Your website is the opposite of everything above. It’s your own space. You make the rules. You decide what your user will see first and influence how they will interact with your content. And websites are more or less timeless. I’ve had a website for the last 20 years and it has not failed me yet.

It hasn’t become tragically uncool, or been sold to a different mega-corp with new rules, or started charging me to boost my content.

It’s adapted as I’ve needed it to: from a personal blog to a portfolio to a place where I can write about design. I can experiment with crazy colourful layouts, or go for a more sleek approach.

Investing time, effort and resources into your website is going to see you through in the long run.

Use social to supplement your website

Of course, social media isn’t useless. They’re great platforms for connecting with your audience, and hopefully converting them to frequent visitors of your website.

I’ve always loved being part of a forum (RIP), Twitter (which I, admittedly, use a lot less now, unless it’s in an activist space), and Instagram (my favourite). I like creating for these platforms and messaging the friends that I’ve made there.

I imagine that many of the people visiting this website are people I’ve met through those mediums (even as far back as my forum days) – hi, guys!

So, yes, social media definitely has always had, and will continue to have, a place in our online lives. But it should not be the be all, end all of your online presence!

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Is Your Website Navigation in the Wrong Order?

You probably read the title above and thought: of course it isn’t. Surely your navigation can go in any order you choose, right?

Wrong.

Well, obviously it can. You (hopefully) live in a free country and can, therefore, put your navigation in any order that you want. But is it in the order that best suits your audience? Is it in the order that will be most effective when it comes to converting a visitor to a customer?

Most of the time, “About” should not come first

On 99% of websites that I visit, the first navigation item (unless the site also has a Home link) is for the About page. Now, there are some reasons why this could be a good move: it might be the only source of additional information, such as on a blog where the primary content are the blog posts themselves, and the About page is usually of secondary importance.

As you can probably see, this is what I’ve done on this website. The About page simply is the most common place a user of this website would land, following the home page. However on my design portfolio website, About is very far down the list of what I’ve deemed important for the user to know!

If your website is for a service or product, About should absolutely not be the first item in your navigation. In the Western world, we read primarily left to right, and then up to down. And in the Western world, we also have small attention spans that are constantly being pulled in different directions.

When you have a split second to influence a user you need to start with your best foot forward. Where do you want them to go in order to have the biggest possible impact in the shortest amount of time?

Hint: It’s probably not the page that contains a whimsical story about how being an entrepreneur is your calling.

Surface the most important information

If you’re a product or service-based business, the first page on your navigation should be (surprise!) your Products or Services page! This should be the first thing that you’d want your user to click on when they’ve finished reading your home page.

Think of the journey you want your ideal user to take. Think about what you’d want your ideal user to see if they only had one minute to explore your website before dashing off to the next thing. Think about the content that you want your ideal user to remember.

Now order your navigation accordingly.

Bring the most important information to the surface of your navigation.

Do you need a Home link?

I briefly mentioned above that some websites include a “Home” link in their navigation, and it is also very common to be the first link. I find this positioning to be even more pointless than having the About link first, and here’s why:

Most of the time, this is the page users will have come to first.

Chances are that the user has already been to this page. They might even currently be on this page. With the exception of blogs, where users often arrive directly onto a post via a link from a 3rd party (social media, a feed reader, etc), very few users will want to immediately return to the home page.

Clicking the logo to return home is widely established

The majority of Internet users know that clicking the logo will take them back home at this point. It’s a very standard practice. Unless you’re dealing with an audience where this convention isn’t commonly known, I’d argue there’s no point in having a dedicated Home link at all!

If you want to keep your Home link around for ensured clarity, I’d recommend making it the last link in your navigation. If you think about the typical journey you want your user to take, there are likely to be more important places to visit, and then, should you still have their attention, they may wish to return home for a last look before ending their session.

Hopefully you have found this post useful, and it has got you thinking about your user’s journey, and how you can use your navigation to influence the impact of your user’s visit. Let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you for reading!

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