My Home on The Internet: Personal Websites Are More Relevant Than Ever
Personal websites have taken on a lot of different forms over the years. The Geocities websites of the late 90’s and early 2000’s are what comes to mind for many of us – replete with all the GIFs you can imagine and guestbooks for your visitors to say hi.
For some, a personal site is an online portfolio & resumé to be updated only when looking for a new job. For others, it’s a way to share photos with family & friends far and wide, or for sharing writing in a calmer environment than what’s possible on Facebook or Twitter.
These days, it’s common for professionals in a variety of fields to run their own websites – often this is tied into a freelance career, but traditionally-employed folks are in on the game as well.
This isn’t my first foray into the personal website sphere. In the early 2000’s I was in my teens and teaching myself web design. I started several fansites for things I was into at the time – mostly The Sims and Rollercoaster Tycoon (OK, I am still into Rollercoaster Tycoon). Those sites gradually faded away (can you believe that they weren’t very popular?), and eventually I started getting paid to create websites for clients. This was right around the time that social networks were becoming huge, and the golden age of fansites & truly personal websites seemed to be coming to an end.
I first registered adriantrimble.com in 2009, and it spent several years as a blog where I wrote (questionable) reviews of various craft beers and occasionally ranted about things that got under my skin. After a while, writing beer reviews got boring and I eventually took the site offline. I always intended to relaunch it under a new guise one day, and that day has finally come.
So what can you expect from this site, and why am I starting it now?
What’s this site for?
Just over a year ago, I left a full time design job that I enjoyed to pursue my desire to work for myself. A year on, and I’m very committed to the self-employed life, so I need to make sure it’s something that’s built to last. I love getting to work one-on-one with some great clients and the challenge of new projects, while setting my own schedule and enjoying the freedom that comes with self employment.
With that in mind, I’ve realized that I need a place on the internet that’s all mine – one location that provides an overview of my writing, my side projects and my business. This blog has no particular focus, other than it’s mine, and I’ll write about whatever I want. If you know me, you know I’m partial to a good beer, especially as a reward after a long bike ride. I’ll write about those things from time to time, as well as topics related to running my own business, design and marketing. If you like these things too, I encourage you to sign up for my email newsletter as well.
Why launch a personal site in 2018?
It’s tempting to think that personal sites are no longer really necessary. We have Facebook and Instagram for sharing photos & videos with our friends & family, Twitter for sharing interests and getting upset at the world, and LinkedIn for helping us find a new job. These platforms are all great at what they focus on, but there are some things they’re just not very good at.
Social networks can be quite impersonal.
With the exception of choosing a profile picture and cover photo, the design & layout of each profile is fundamentally the same. Even the profile pages across different sites look similar – just compare a friends profile on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – they all have similar layouts, and divulge similar pieces of information.
The topic du jour is pretty much the only thing anyone on Twitter is talking about, Facebook is mostly memes and silly videos, and Instagram is wall-to-wall gorgeous images. They can all be helpful for growing a business, but speed is the name of the game, there’s certainly no time for a 1200 word blog post. “Well you could write your self-indulgent blog posts on Medium,” I hear you say, but that doesn’t solve the other major drawbacks of living on social networks.
Social networks are closed platforms.
Social networks are closed in many ways – just consider Facebook or LinkedIn. Without an account, it’s not possible to browse the content hosted on them. Even Twitter, which used to allow anyone with a web browser to view any public content, is gradually restricting which content can be viewed without an account. (Check out a profile and click the “Tweets and Replies” link while logged out, and you’ll be asked to sign up for an account or log in).
This walled-garden approach makes a lot of sense if you’re Mark Zuckerburg, but inherently excludes anyone that isn’t a part of your chosen platform. Independent websites don’t have this problem – anyone can view this site, in pretty much any web browser, on a slow connection, whether they know me or not. This makes it a great way to share my work with everyone, rather than just those people on a given social network. Releasing press releases and news on a closed platform like Facebook? No thanks.
Social networks are centrally controlled.
I’m not some tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist, but there are some significant downsides to having an online life that exists at the mercy of one or two corporate overlords. Lately, we’ve all heard about the numerous privacy issues related to the information Facebook et al. are collecting about us, but that’s far from the only problem.
From a business perspective, any success that is built on the back of one or two platforms is inherently risky. All it takes is a tweak to an algorithm or a change in policy, and suddenly what once seemed like a steady supply of sales or clients can evaporate as quickly as it arrived. This happened a decade ago with search engines – businesses all over the world had taken advantage of flaws in search engine algorithms, but as Google made their algorithms smarter, it became harder and harder to game the system. Great for those lucky enough to still appear in the top ten results, not so much for everyone else. The solution presented by the likes of Facebook & Google is to pay for exposure in the form of advertising – but that’s little more than a short term fix, unless you want to spend a lot of money in perpetuity.
Platforms come and go.
With the ubiquity of Facebook, it’s hard to imagine a future where they’re not around. But change does happen. Geocities was in many ways the pre-cursor to modern social networking, but it closed in 2009 – and with it, 15 years of user websites and pages almost disappeared forever (luckily the Internet Archive managed to save a copy).
MySpace was one of the early trailblazers of social networking, and at one point it seemed like it would be around for a long time (apparently it’s still around, but who really knew?). Twitter has struggled for years to grow its user base, so it could easily disappear at some point. Even the monolithic Facebook is currently experiencing huge losses in their stock price, amid investor concerns surrounding privacy and their ability to continue growing revenue. Nothing lasts forever. My website won’t last forever either, but I plan on keeping it around for as long as I can.
The internet itself is here for the long haul.
Longevity, flexibility and independence are important factors for me in finding a place to put my words, my work and my contact information. The one thing that might outlast all the social media platforms is the internet itself. No single entity controls the internet (although Google is trying to), so it will more than likely outlive the entities that have grown from it.
You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, but perhaps one day those places won’t be what they are today. When that happens, you’ll still find me at adriantrimble.com. The design will change, and the focus will evolve, but this will be my home on the internet.
Posted on July 31, 2018