Why should you have a website?
If an alien civilization scanned planet Earth, the complex network of machines connected with wires and radio waves would probably not impress them. However, assuming they are curious beings, they would notice how tremendous influence those interconnected machines have on the whole human species. Before we make our first contact, let’s learn why should you keep your own spot in the marvellous achievement we call the Internet.
The Web in a nutshell
Think about the Internet in terms of artificial light. The invention of the light bulb was a starting point for many other technologies that eventually converge into a ubiquitous solution for seeing in the dark, without the use of fire. The network of networks is no different, yet the enlightenment is through the exchange of knowledge.
Since 1969 we are all experiencing phases that shape societies, economies and politics. They also represent different mediums of communication:
- ARPANET was established to exchange data.
- World Wide Web (WWW) was created to put meaning on top of data with text that is readable for more humans.
- Web Browsers emerged to allow easier access to websites, especially those that embraced the use of images.
- File sharing and streaming media became standards to exchange audio and video.
- Convergence is how new services are formed and grow their market share (social media, streaming services, mobile apps, etc.)
In other words, the Internet is in constant evolution, but the prime directive remains the same: share your knowledge and learn from others.
Internet Wars over market dominance
The existence of the Internet depends on the vast network of devices that can communicate with each other. As with everything in capitalism, also the machines we use to create, edit, distribute and store information are competing for money. Desktop computers, portable laptops, smartphones among many others are fiercely fighting to become the dominant “platform” used by masses. The never achieved ideal is to own a 100% share of the specific market group. By the time that one platform is getting close to control the entire sector, there is a newcomer that shifts the balance. Those are cycles that we observe since the beginning of the Web.
Uncontrollable nature of the Internet
The old media, which includes printing press, radio stations, TV, cinema and music industry is owned and controlled by six powerful corporations. That is not the case for the Internet. Partly because of its ephemeral qualities, by some described as a meta-medium.
As an avid culture explorer, I conceptualize it in the same way as all human cultures. It’s an intangible set of relations between people that recognize themselves as participants of common habits. The customs grow over time and each generation slightly alters the things of the past to adapt to the changing environment. Therefore, culture or in this case the Internet accommodates the wisdom of past generations and serves as a foundation for all currently living participants who are building new structures for future successors.
The web isn’t just another software platform. It’s the greatest software platform the world has ever seen. No permissions, no masters, readable source code. Let’s protect the heritage, work in its service, and remind ourselves just what a marvel it all really is ❤️🙏David Heinemeier Hansson – web app developer and book author | Twitter @DHH
Claim your spot on the Web
If the Internet is a first truly global and universal culture for humanity, the website is a page in the greatest “book” ever written. This book has many authors, collaborators, editors and audience of billions of people. Rapid technological advancement is always adding new ways to use the web, that transform its nature:
- YouTube and Netflix are becoming the television
- Phone calls are no longer the primary feature of a smartphone
- Every year more people use mobile devices instead of desktop computers
One thing remains the same in this quickly evolving world of the Internet. A website is still the best place to share your message.
Why a website is the best spot?
Humans are curious beings. We are always eager to know more about the places we visit and the mobile internet created a profound new chapter in traversing the world. Whatever you do and wherever you are the knowledge you possess can be crucial for others.
Website is timeless
Much like books, a website is withstanding the pressure of time. Yes, the way we “consume” them is changing with ebooks or audiobooks, but the base remains the same. Someone needs to write down their thoughts. Only then it can be transformed to reach more people.
In opposition to all social media and news outlets, that are driven by current affairs, the text typed on a webpage can remain the same for decades. Again, like books, they can age well. Moreover, their relevancy can be long-lasting and important for those, who don’t find answers on the trending platforms.
Independent of the dominant technology
Web services, social media platforms and devices we use are all subjects to fluctuations and innovation cycles. They are great to reach many people at once and allow conversations on a global scale. You should definitely use them to connect with like-minded people. Yet, keep in mind that they can become irrelevant very quickly. A forum was once a central social stage in every city build by ancient Rome, today their importance diminished.
The written works remain independent of technological evolution. We may meet and talk in places most convenient for as at the moment. When we want to convey a message, the written form stays relevant, regardless of platforms, services and devices.
Freedom of expression
Every culture is influenced by the collective mind of participants freely expressing themselves. That’s also true for the Internet. Over time rules are developed to better serve a diversity of people of different age, interests and life experience. Policies are stricter in case of services that are controlled by one company. They try to keep it open for as many people as possible, but the ever-evolving policies are always shutting doors for some groups and topics.
Websites are not kept in hands of one powerful corporation, therefore your freedom of expression is wider. As long as you are not publishing spam, viruses and serious threats of violence the website is your blank canvas. Write as little or as much as you need. Experiment, try new forms and invent ways to tell a better story.
Control the whole picture
The web and mobile services are giving us the experience of becoming. Renowned technologist Kevin Kelly explains it in his book “The Inevitable”, that we no longer have fixed products. Everything is always upgrading, so we need to keep learning new features and tools of every app. This means that any element we may like and find useful can disappear the next day because it was not popular enough.
Websites and technology behind them are very dynamic too. But the final picture depends on you as an author much more than a profile in social media platforms. You can add content, features, tools and keep them as long as you wish, regardless of their popularity. The control over a visitor experience is in your hands.
Your website is more resilient
What happens when an online service (including social media) is shut down? If the company behind it respects its users, they will give you some time to download all the content or transfer it to another platform. In many cases the shut down is abrupt and you are losing everything that was stored there.
The content of your website can be categorized into three groups:
- code – a structure that holds pieces together
- text – paragraphs that are key for visitors and search engines
- multimedia – images, files, documents and anything else you keep
Each one of them is easy to store, backup, recreate and website hosting providers are making the process as convenient as possible. Yes, your website still depends on the hosting company but you don’t need to rely on just one provider. All the data belongs to you and with additional services you can keep it anywhere and indefinitely. The website resilience depends on your choices.
Switch your provider anytime
If you look at the whole Internet as a country, then you realize that it’s based on the most liberal form of the capitalist system. Yes, many companies try to gain the 100% share of the market, but at the same time, all participants are free to choose any service or build their own Internet solution. The dynamics of such a system can be equally intimidating and liberating.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert economist with a Harvard degree to participate and flourish in capitalism. Cooperation with companies that are providing the best-suited service for your current needs, is enough. Moreover, global market competition is lowering prices, removing lock-in clauses and smoothing transition processes. Not every industry can offer this level of flexibility.
Your website is in a public park not in a walled garden
Many apps and services, including most social media, are “free to use” for regular users. This usually means a targeted advertisement in exchange for no monthly subscription. Not everyone on the Internet agrees with this approach, and they prefer to stay out from those walled gardens. The Internet is a much larger space, that resembles a public park. Open for anyone, accessible for all and without gates and fences.
Thanks to never-ending ingenuity of smart people responsible for creating the Web, your page is part of this open ecosystem. Regardless of the device, operating system and web browser, anyone is welcomed. What is very important, a visitor doesn’t need to register, hand over personal data or pay an extra fee to read what you are sharing. This is truly free to use approach.
Easy to find
When your website is a blooming tree in a public park, then it’s easy to make a global index for all these trees. Search engines are doing exactly that. They are constantly looking for changes, newcomers and relations between all websites on the Internet. The interconnected network of links and relevancy to what a person is looking for are at the base for your search ranking position.
Walled gardens are not that open. Depending on their policy and market strategy, they are opening only some of their data. Their primary goal is to register a new user, therefore they are doing everything to convince a potential visitor to sing up. Your content on these platforms, even if it’s relevant for a specific search query, is not easy to find. Neither for people nor for search engines.
Easy to share
When something is easy to find it’s also easy to share. URL or in other words an internet link is the direct path to your content. The “domain name dot com” phrase quickly established itself into spoken language and offline media. Therefore, link sharing became second nature for most of the internet users, regardless if it’s via instant messaging, podcasts or business cards. It works because even if someone makes a typo, most web browsers are smart enough to suggest the correct path to your site.
Some web services don’t allow link sharing by design. This is a marketing strategy to maximize user engagement. Even if there is a share/repost/reblog/retweet feature, it works within one particular platform. In most cases, you can share a link TO your social media profile and connect with other active participants of that community. Keep in mind that it’s just a common practice, that is from time to time challenged by a new service that wants to stand out.
Your central hub of Internet presence
Please, don’t get me wrong. Social media along many other proprietary web services are amazing tools to build meaningful relationships. It’s great we are living through this era and each invention allows us to uniquely express ourselves.
Nevertheless, I’m a person who experienced the world before the Internet was a thing and then lived through each cycle. With this perspective, it’s easier to recognize patterns and see that a website is the most trustworthy and long-lasting place on the Internet. Considering all the arguments above it should be a central hub for your best works, your expert’s opinion and all the links to social media profiles and web services. The one destination that is relevant and worth visiting, even when the technology landscape is changing.
Conduct business on your terms
The blooming tree in the public park of the Internet is also your place open for any business activities. When you are independent of dominant technology, free to express yourself and in control of the whole picture, you can be paid for your work. The way of reaching out and connecting with your potential customers is also totally up to you. Encourage direct phone calls to your shop, ask to fill out a quick contact form or put a “buy now” button to your digital and physical products.
Social media, online marketplaces and ad networks are sophisticated solutions to reach specific target groups, as long as you follow their current policy and don’t sell prohibited services. Some regions, currencies or payment methods are not supported or are considered as not profitable enough. Fortunately, there’s always an alternative in the wide world of the Internet. And if nothing satisfy your needs, create a new solution. Keep in mind that online is an extension of the offline world. If you cannot be paid via the Internet, you can still receive cash.
I wrote a three-part guide about Limited companies in the United Kingdom. It’s focused on freelancers, digital nomads and tourism professionals. Nevertheless, the combined knowledge could be useful to you too:
Your Website is future ready
No one can predict with 100% accuracy the progress of technology and the Internet. The only way to stay relevant is to closely observe market trends and statistics. New services, platforms and devices that are in the Early Adopters phase, can soon become a new mainstream standard. That happened with mobile phones replacing landlines, laptops/tablets replacing desktop computers and now smartphones replacing computers in general.
I believe that text-based websites will remain relevant, as they have been since the beginning of the Internet. Regardless if we use ten fingers to type on QWERTY keyboards, one thumb to swipe on a screen or get help from voice assistants, the written record remains the foundation of everything we create online and offline.
What is changing is the way we read or for the lack of better term, consume text. Here are some examples:
Features and services that synthesize text
- Google is constantly experimenting with the design of search results to prioritize faster answering to any query; this includes showing relevant section from your website directly within the search screen,
- Reader Mode on iPhones and Accelerated Mobile Pages on all mobile devices are designed to hide almost everything except text and images of a web article,
- Apple News, Feedly, Nuzzle, Pocket, Google News, WordPress Reader among many other news apps offer a smoother user experience by exclusively pulling text/images/videos from any web article.
The transformation from text to audio/video
- most devices and web browsers offer a built-in text-to-speech (TTS) feature and many content producers publish written articles also in audio form,
- apps like article storage Pocket and smart speakers implement more advanced speech software that sounds very human-like and is able to read any text on the web,
- Anchor and Apple Clips allow you to quickly create videos/animations with automatically generated subtitles from your speech.
The transformation from audio/video to text
- YouTube automatically transcribes speech to subtitles and advise its users to edit, translate and manually write captions and video descriptions; this helps with video search ranking,
- Google Podcasts service is transcribing all podcasts to implement their relevant parts in search results,
- Podcast transcriptions published as blog posts are boosting search engine ranking and discoverability.
In summary, written work is a key element of Internet content. There’s no better method to claim your spot in the network of networks than having a website and keeping it up-to-date as long as the Internet is here.
What’s the purpose of your website?
In order to choose the best-suited website solution for your needs, it’s vital to answer the following questions. Clear your mind and take your time. More precise answers will turn into better results.
1. What you want to achieve?
Depending on the nature of your profession and business activities you’ll look for a different outcome. Examples of website goals:
- get phone calls from people in my area and sign them up for my services,
- connect with businesses in my industry and share best practices improving overall quality,
- sell products or subscription services to a specified target group.
In a real world website could be an equivalent of a professional business card, promotional leaflet or a paper guide book. Each of these things have specific goal to accomplish. Your website can be any and all of them at once. Think of what is the most important current goal for you.
2. Why should people visit your site?
Once the website goal is settled you can focus on the message to your visitors. Getting into the shoes of your visitor will help you address the most basic questions they have about you. In most cases it is:
- What is your profession? What do you do that can help your visitor?
- Where do you offer products/services?
- How to reach you (telephone, WhatsApp or another messaging app, email address)?
Only after you address the essentials you can think about more advanced reasons to visit your website:
- What is your unique offer? Why should people choose you instead of other websites?
- Do you publish content that is highly relevant/useful/informative for people in your industry or target group?
- Are your website and connected social media profiles up-to-date? Is your Internet presence alive or long forgotten?
3. How much time do you want to invest?
Fifteen minutes in enough to create an essential website with details similar to what is on your business card. Your telephone number, email address and shop/office location doesn’t change too often. Therefore, you’ll need to update the site only when those details change. That’s it. Quarter of an hour is enough to claim your spot on the Internet for years to come.
If you can spare more time I recommend writing few paragraphs about your business activities. Websites are not bound by the limits of paper size, so you can tell more detailed story. People are always interested about your origin, motivation and journey. Especially if they want to hire you, buy a product or sing up for monthly subscription. Additionally, more detailed text description positively affects your search engine relevancy.
Regular posting, like regular working, requires comitment, but can benefit you tremendously. Whatever is your business activity, you are bound by physical space. That is not the case for your Internet presence. If you, like me, conduct bus tours around Europe, the maximum amount of tourists in a group is usually around 30 to 60 people. Your first blog posts can easily reach 600 readers in no time. The more you publish, the bigger is the readership beacuse anyone, anytime on any device can learn from you. Eventually, as with the most things on the Internet, the network effect can help you grow and connect to like-minded professionals and customers.
Where to start?
There are three key elements that every website need to have:
- Domain address. Much like a postal address, it is a unique path to reach your website. In my case it is nerdontour.net
- Web hosting. This is land on which your property stands. Usually it is a server – special kind of computer – that is serving your website to anyone reaching your domain address.
- Content. Text, images, other media, theme, code among other elements is what a web hosting allows you to store and serve to visitors.
There are thousands of domain registrars, web hosting companies and services for producing, managing and publishing content. Below I describe four solutions that address most use-cases for anyone looking to create their website. All of them are beginner-friendly and don’t require technical knowledge.
|Static content||Regurarly updated|
|Free||Google My Business||WordPress.com|
Google My Business
Google is a dominant search engine around the world, but also an online service provider that offer a suite of solutions for businesses any type and size. Because billions of people are asking similar questions about services in their vicinity, Google created an easy tool to manage your business details.
Keep in mind that currently the Google My Business is aimed specifically for companies with physical location and offering products and services in that region. For example a freelance work or any digital/online service, even if you have a virtual office address, cannot use Google My Business. In this case I recommend WordPress.com.
How to create a free website with Google My Business?
Go to business.google.com and login with your Google or G Suite account. If you use several Google accounts, choose the one used for business activities. You can also create a new account with @gmail.com domain address or sign-up for a G Suite account with @yourDomain.com address.
Once you are in the Google My Business dashboard, follow the steps of adding a new location. Registration process is intuitive and straightforward. It ends with a verification method that varies depending on a region, for example receive a phone call with an automated voice message or wait for a postcard with a code you need to type in Google My Business. Only after the verification is done, your business will show up on Google Maps and in search results.
I strongly recommend revisiting business.google.com or managing it via official mobile app at least once a week. All the details you provide are important for customers and keeping them up-to-date will save you time and bring their satisfaction. This includes but is not limited to:
- telephone numbers – both mobile and landline as it may be more affordable for a customer to call one or another,
- business hours – be precise to the minute and include lunch breaks or shift changes if this affect your customers,
- main category and sub categories for your business – in many cases people look for a “florist” or “gift shop” because they may not know the name of your shop,
- short description – be accurate and honest; authentic line like “family-owned shop with a wide variety of flowers for any occasion” is always better than “The Best Florist in the City with the Lowest Prices and Biggest Selection. Come Now!”.
- holidays – very important during national holidays, your vacation or renovation periods,
- photos – upload at least few photos made during a sunny day from the outside of your location, so customers can clearly understand where it the business.
If all the details are written down you can create a website using the built-in editor from Google My Business. This is an easy process that use all the data you already provided. You can choose a template, colours and fonts, but keep in mind that it should be readable and in tune with your business activities. Once you are satisfied with the final effect hit the Publish button. Congratulations, your new website is live and accessible for anyone!
What are the limitations of a free website from Google My Business?
- The domain address is currently limited to yourName.business.site and cannot be anything else. However, once you decide to get a paid site, you can add your own domain in the Google My Domain dashboard.
- The website is hosted, maintained and controlled by Google. By using My Business you accept their Terms of Service.
- Your website is live as long as Google offers this service. Considering their history of shut down projects it’s important to stay vigilant and prepared to move to another provider.
- Service can be limited or not accessible in some regions or languages.
- The suite of features is constantly changing, which means that your website design can also be altered over time.
WordPress is a Content Management System developed by Automattic a fully-remote company, that understands the Internet like no one else. In a nutshell the WordPress.org is a place for open source project, where anyone can contribute and help design a better platform for websites. It also means that anyone can download, edit and adjust the software for their needs. Mind that managing WordPress, domain registration and web hosting requires technical knowledge and time to put all the pieces together.
Automattic also offers a commercial version of WordPress with a free plan on the WordPress.com domain. In my opinion it’s the best bet for anyone who cannot get the Google My Business website and/or want to regularly publish written articles.
Why free plan on WordPress.com is the best website starting point?
- Website creation process and content management are polished and consistent both on a computer web browser and on their official mobile app.
- WordPress.com is fully compatible with WordPress.org and other services which gives you freedom to change your provider at any moment.
- Learning how WordPress dashboard works is beneficial because more and more websites are built with it. It is very probable that you’ll use some version of WordPress, when you switch to a paid option.
How to create a free website with WordPress.com?
Go to wordpress.com or download and open the mobile app. Register your WordPress.com account or sign-up with your Google account. Follow the registration process to the end. The name of your website should be the same as your business and feel free to use your full name if you like. The domain address can be anything, but in general the shorter the better. The free plan on WordPress.com allows you to own yourName.wordpress.com or yourName.Category.blog. Domain address like FloristFirenze.art.blog can be a perfect starting point.
Remember to include all details, that customers may look for – telephone number, email address, physical location, business hours, etc. Congratulations, your new website is live and accessible for anyone!
What are the limitations of a free website from WordPress.com?
- Because it is very popular and free service many popular domain names are taken. There are more options with paid plans, but additional costs for some domains can be significant. Learn more about the domain research below.
- The website is hosted, maintained and controlled by Automattic. By using WordPress.com you accept their Terms of Service.
- The storage is limited to 3 GB, which can be not enough if you want to publish a lot of high quality images.
- Visitors to your website will see WordPress advertising.
I believe that the Internet is the most significant human achievement and websites are the founding blocks. Anyone in any location should be able to contribute to this grandest knowledge library. That’s why I used my web development experience and designed an all-in-one service with flat rate and personal support. It can be used by any business or person regardless of location, language and profession.
Essential is product name for a minimalistic and elegant website with a professional and responsive theme, online payments, custom domain address and email account – [email protected]
This is the next step to develop your Internet presence with full featured blog. Publishing regular and detailed posts is the best strategy to grow your expert’s opinion and influence along with your website search engine ranking. Additional space for sub pages and images can showcase your offer and reach the right people.
Journey is product name for an advanced and elegant website with a professional and responsive theme, intuitive and easy to manage blog registered on a custom domain address with an email account – [email protected]
What is unique about Nerd on Tour websites?
I hope that this article helps you understand the importance of owning a website. Being a digital native, tour manager, traveller and a nerd gives me distinctive perspective on how Internet is created, used and accessed around the globe. My personal and professional growth is strongly tied with online world. Therefore, I want to help others grasping its full potential.
Smartphone, not a computer is our primary device. We should be able to fully control our Internet presence just with the machine that’s always within reach. Especially people who spend a better part of their work in the field, like tourism professionals, need this solution.
All Nerd on Tour services are designed to work on mobile devices in the same scope as on computers. This includes what website visitors see (responsive design) and how you manage all details (back end).
Security is not an option
The uncontrollable nature of the Internet can cause trouble, if you don’t know how to protect your website. Think of it as a cold (wild Internet) that tries to absorb your body heat (the website). Having a proper multi-layer outfit will keep you warm and safe, while allowing to enjoy the vast (online) world.
A right set of safety outfit is what you get with Nerd on Tour. It’s easy to understand and use, because it implements well tested and proven standards.
Choosing the best domain address can be a challenging task. Due to the fact that domains are scarce and anyone can buy any address, there’s a lot of competition and price fluctuation.
Nerd on Tour is offering a mindful approach to buying the right domain. Your (business) name will be a starting point to check which addresses are short, memorable and affordable. Together we’ll make sure that is pronounceable and not easily confused with other domains. Last but not least Nerd on Tour will implement all necessary safety measures to keep the domain in your control.
Travel industry is where I have the most experience and insights on how to improve it. Well-designed websites, with full compatibility across devices/services and additional features like online payments is what every tourism professional should have.
Whether you are a local tour guide, hotel/restaurant/tourist attraction owner or a tour operator representative, Nerd on Tour is here to provide the right solutions.
Great two-way communication is the base for prosperous collaboration. That’s why you can perform any operation just by contacting me via the channel of your choice. With phone calls, emails, messaging or in person we can set up any website, edit content, turn on or off any features.
I trust my machines to do everything what they are designed for, but in terms of genuine human connection there’s no better way than direct conversation. Are you curious how it works? Let’s chat right now!
The Internet keeps influencing everyone of us, because it’s still an open and public park. It means that technology standards need to be as universal as possible. Websites created by Nerd on Tour and all their features work across devices, operating systems and web browsers.
Moreover, your content is not locked. If for whatever reason you’d like to switch platforms and providers, you can do this effortlessly.
Following tech evolution and how it affects your Internet presence is probably not your biggest passion. Tech is my passion, that’s why it’s my job to offer long-lasting online solutions. It means that even in case of changing platforms, your website will be here to work for you.
Similarly, to other online services like Netflix or Spotify, there’s a flat monthly fee that includes all necessities. Every plan also offer a yearly fee with discounted price. There’s no setup, hidden or surprise costs. Working with Nerd on Tour will keep your Internet presence in the best shape. Read the full terms of service.
Not only websites
Convergence of old and new technologies and further integration with the offline world is what make Internet fresh and innovative. Nerd on Tour is also providing this kind of services. For example:
- Accelerated Mobile Project pages for instant view on mobile devices
- Calendar and Maps integration for scheduled events
- SMS notifications for better connection with mobile customers
- VoIP and IVR solutions to connect with customers in diverse markets
Try Essential website for 30 days
Thank you for reading to the very last chapter 😊. The alien civilization story I started with, is an analogy to my favourite genre – science-fiction. Many books, films and games try to imagine the interactions that could occur when space guests come to our home planet. Yet, the Internet is already showing us the human greatness, when we can constantly talk to each other on a truly planetary scale.
Let me help you be part of this conversation. Even the most basic website is like publishing a book that anyone, anytime and anywhere can read. Moreover, if they like it, they’ll share it, talk about it and reach out to know you better.
I understand that it can be hard to start. That’s why I offer a 30-day trial version of the Essential website. The differences to the paid Essential are:
- trail website will have a yourName.nerdontour.net domain address
- no need to provide credit/debit card details
- no G Suite email account
If you have any thoughts or questions regarding the wild nature of the Internet feel free to write comments below.