Make a Damn Website

January 8, 2024

I’ve been doing a lot of personal archival work, and through that work, I’ve realized how important it is to me to present myself the way I want to be presented.

I’ve written a little about this before in The Teenage Web, but as I’ve combed through posts from all my old blogs, re-formatting and editing them for this blog, I’ve realized just how many links are dead. Tons of old personal sites are gone. (God bless the Internet Archive.)

In the last 15 years, many people (myself included) were drawn to third-party solutions for presenting ourselves. For our résumés, LinkedIn. For portfolios, Behance and Dribbble. For blogging, Tumblr, Medium, and Substack. Instead of forums, Discord and Slack. But despite each of these advertising some amount of autonomy, in reality you have very little.

By centralizing not just your content, but yourself, on these sites, you rob yourself the opportunity to be more authentically you. In addition, a peer or competitor might appear next to you. It may not be great for you to have your competitor one click away from your own profile.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, because having outbound links to friends is great. But those links should be at your own discretion, not determined by an engineer writing a relevance algorithm at one of these third party websites.

What’s worse is how few businesses have actual websites, choosing to exist solely on Facebook or Instagram. I don’t want to begin about how unfortunate that is.

I’m sure you’ve seen the effects of this, too. Several of these services are completely closed to logged-out users. Want to see someone’s résumé? LinkedIn only. Sign in. Want to see the hours of operation for this cafe? Facebook only. Sign in. Want to see what products this shop offers? Instagram only. Sign in. Want to read about a topic you’re interested in? Discord only. Sign in.

And for everything else, the web is being littered with AI-generated content. Looking for a recipe? Advice on a medical issue? Perhaps you’re troubleshooting. You read a few paragraphs of the article before it hits you: a human definitely didn’t write this. The website you’re looking at is somehow worse than a recipe blog with a long story and ads, it’s an AI-generated recipe blog with a long story and ads.

Therefore, I believe it’s everyone’s imperative to genuinely invest in making websites again. For ourselves, for our businesses, for our interests.

I think the most basic HTML is extremely approachable. (Getting a hosting service squared away is decidedly not, I admit.) But I don’t even think you need much—if any—CSS to make a website. I think there’s nothing wrong with a website that is all substance and no style. A page with an address, phone number, email address, and operating hours using Times New Roman on a white background is significantly better than locking that data behind a Facebook login wall.

I think it’s more than okay for websites to be bare bones. And hear me out: if you approach HTML this way, you don’t even need to make a “mobile” website. It already works. The concept of mobile websites only emerged when websites became too complex.

So, if you can spare the time, I think it’s time to ditch all the sites scattered across the Internet you use to present yourself. Get rid of the Linktree, too. That’s the easiest thing you can build yourself.

Make a damn website.