On Websites

If I had to judge my internet self using internet and marketing metrics I’d have to conclude that I’m failing. My projects are not well known and I am certainly not famous. I don’t have a curated and coordinated internet presence, I’m not growing a popular newsletter, don’t have lots of supporters, am not verified on Instagram or Twitter. I'm not winning this game. And that's a good thing.

The current web is strange. It seems to be governed by some silly rules:

Those are reasonable rules if you’re wearing your marketing hat and if your livelihood depends on a website. But that's not me and probably it's not you either. It's also sad that more often than not, those rules become the goals. It's not unusual to see websites that are designed to maximise the time you spend on the site for example. The question is: why?


Don't get me wrong, I get why. It's not that I don't know why people are doing this. I'm asking why in a more broad and "philosophical" sense. To me, all those goals should come up naturally. People will visit and share your content when the content is compelling and your site is designed well enough to not frustrate your audience.

I think—and maybe I'm wrong or just naive—that a site should focus on the user. What I mean by that is that you should keep in mind that your content is ultimately going to be consumed by other human beings and you should put their experience before everything else.

At the same time, you should try to be guided by some moral principle AKA things you believe in. That is, for example, what I tried and I still try to do with this site. When I started working on this design I asked myself "what do people really need to find in a blog?" and the answer was simply "the content". The entire point of a blog is to have an easy path to the content, especially the new one. That's the reason why my homepage is the latest blog. If you've opened the site before and you open it again you immediately know if there's new content for you to read.

Does changing the homepage of my site hurts SEO? Maybe. I honestly don't know and frankly, I don't care. Because to me, preventing you from having to scroll down even 100px to find out if there are new posts in the archive was more important than ranking high on Google.

The same reasoning was applied to the archive. I want you to have access to the rest of the site but at the same time, I don't want to blindly push related content at the bottom of each article. It's not up to me to tell you what you should read next. Maybe the next thing you should read after my post is a book. Or maybe you should close the browser and go for a walk (if you can, which is not a given considering the current situation).

By following that line of thoughts I landed on the current archive solution. Is it the best solution? Probably not. Worked quite well at first but then the archive became long and the page was tedious to scroll. That's why months ago I introduced the new design with only the posts from the current month visible by default.

These were all design decisions taken by thinking about your reading experience. Because in this particular case, that's all that matter. This site is a blog. The entire point is to provide you with a nice and pleasant reading experience. My goal is to consume the least amount of bandwidth possible and to serve you the content you're looking for, as fast as I can in the most pleasant way possible. That's what matters.

Does all that translate to more time spent on the site? Or more page views? Maybe, but it's not relevant. I'm 100% sure that I could grow the size of my newsletter by adding a fullscreen modal that reminds you that it exists and you can subscribe to it. That crap apparently works. But there's absolutely no chance I'm going to do that. Why? Because I am not going to sacrifice your browsing experience in exchange for some email addresses. It's not a worthy tradeoff.

And that's precisely the reason why you probably should not listen to me. I'm terrible at marketing, I'm terrible at creating content for the 2020 web. My guiding principles are all over the place. But I hope that you at least ask yourself a few more questions when you're taking the next design decision.

Side note, since we're talking websites. A bunch of people in the past few months have asked me if there's a way to receive my content via email. Now, I never considered setting up a newsletter just for that but if that's something you want I'm happy to do it. I'm using Buttondown and you can subscribe here. I'm going to experiment with this until the end of the year and see how it goes. The plan is to send out the exact content available on the site. So no need to sign up just for the FOMO.

So I guess that's it for today. As always, if you have thoughts on the topic of this post do get in touch. Or even if you just want to say hi. I don't mind that.