In my website redesign and making the internet better article, I wrote about some of the ways I try to make my corner of the web beautiful. Here’s what I do and why. I hope to encourage others by example.
One of my favorite websites is Hyperbole and a Half. And I remember reading her thoughts about having ads on the FAQ a long time ago:
“I feel that having advertisements on my page creates a sort of weirdness about my motivation for writing. I think some people feel used when a site they enjoy is plastered with ads, and I don’t want to make you guys feel like that. I’m more comfortable having just the one little button for my store. It feels less intrusive and it lets people choose whether they want to support me or not.” — Allie Brosh
I distinctly remember reading that and thinking…you have such a successful blog, why wouldn’t you want ads? It’s free money. The fact that someone with one of the most visited blogs on the internet wouldn’t want ads really stuck with me.
From the first day this site was published in September 2015, there has never been an ad on it. I have, over the years, made a few thousand dollars in donations and support. For the first few years, I didn’t have any donate button at all because I thought it seemed weird, spammy, and needy to have one, but I realized when you do something cool, people want to show their appreciation.
I’m obviously not trying to (and would be unable to) make a living from this site, but the readers and I have a symbiotic relationship where they get quality content, I have fun making the content I want, and if anyone would like to support it they can. I don’t care about spamming my website out, because I don’t get money from visits.
I have always thought to myself (and I discussed this on with Joel Hooks on the egghead.io podcast) that if I resorted to ads, I would be giving up. I still believe eventually I can write a book, course, or some other content that people will voluntarily pay for (some day!).
No social media
This site doesn’t need a link to Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or anything else. Nobody needs to know how many followers I do or don’t have. Of course, I think this extends beyond just the website - I deleted Facebook years ago among other social media platforms and I would highly recommend it to everyone. I stopped going on Twitter (and reddit) except for the occasional poll to the community and to share new posts, but even that limited exposure is starting to feel like too much. No matter how hard I try to curate my feed, it’s impossible not to see angry mobs and brigades. I have made some good friends and discovered some opportunities through Twitter as well, so it’s difficult.
I can anticipate at this point that some people will see me as pretentious and stuck-up, thinking I’m so superior because I don’t do social media. Honestly, if a real platform existed where I could just communicate with my friends, make new friends, and read blogs by real people with no corporations or ads, I would love to be a part of that. I just don’t even know if it’s possible anymore. I don’t know if any centralized platform can do that in 2020. Fortunately, we have our decentralized websites, and we can connect with each other this way.
No tracking or analytics
I removed Google Analytics from the site. I had it on there for years, and I know somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people visit the site per month, and 80% or so is organic search. I glanced at it maybe twice a year, and I never made any decisions based on the data on there. Since I’m not trying to drive any traffic to my site for ad clicks, it doesn’t really matter how many hits to the site I get. So from this point forth, I’m removing it. And on that note…