Generational Attitudes About Websites

bed browsing

Bed browsing – Image by Sincerely Media

One place you can see a generation gap is in attitudes towards websites, especially personal websites and having a web presence.

A study by website building/hosting company Squarespace partnering with The Harris Poll surveyed over 2,000 US adults and found marked differences in attitudes based on age.

The youngest group is of particular interest since they grew up with the Internet, smart devices, etc. Members of Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2015. This puts the age group in the range of 6-24 years old in 2021.

A summary of some findings:

  • One stat that certainly increased during the pandemic is that 57% of all the Americans surveyed across generations believe that a well-designed online store or website is more important for a business to have than a brick-and-mortar location.
  • Americans browse an average of over 3,000 websites a year. That is 8.4 websites per day.
  • 49% of the Americans surveyed can remember the color of a website better than someone’s eye color. That number is 71% for Millennials and 58% for Gen Zs.
  • Around 60% of Gen Z and 62% of Millennials believe that how you present yourself online is more important than how you present yourself in person.
  • The vast majority (92%) of Gen Z would start their own business. It is 86% of Millennials, 74% of Gen X and 50% of Baby Boomers.
  • Gen Z is more likely to remember off the top of their head the last website they visited (43%) than their partner’s birthday (38%) or their social security number (31%).
  • 44% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials say they make a better impression online than in person It is only 21% of Gen X and 8% of Baby Boomers who feel that way.
  • Entrepreneurship: Gen Z is the most ambitious generation with 92% saying they would start their own business. Still strong at 86% are Millennials, 74% of Gen X but only 50% of Baby Boomers.
  • What type of business they would start on their own? Top response was offering a service (e.g. teaching a class, offering advice, tutoring) beating out selling a physical product.
  • Broadly, 66% of Americans say that travel is the activity that online research is most important for.
  • But 92% of Gen Z multitask with other activities while browsing websites online. What is diverting their attention? food (59%), listening to music (59%), talking on the phone (45%, dancing (28%), watching TV (59%).
  • Focusing on Gen Z, where are they when they are online? They say while in bed (65%), followed by while on the toilet (43%).
  • Across generations, those surveyed admitted that they spend more time browsing websites than working out (43%) or having sex (42%), in a given week.
  • Who are we looking for online? People they went to school with gets 41%. (That is also the top group who Americans think are looking them up online at 33%.) But 20% of us are looking up exes online in a week and 32% look up their current romantic partner. More specifically, that jumps to over half of Gen Z (51%) and Millennials (55%) looking up their current romantic partner online at least once a week. Finally, 86% of Gen Z and 79% of Millennials look people up online before meeting them for the first time, compared to 65% of Gen X and only 44% of Baby Boomers.
  • And it’s not just people we’re checking up on – 62% of Americans overall (76% of Millennials and 64% of Gen Zers, specifically) always look up a business’ website before shopping, visiting, or eating there. It drops to 65% of Gen X and 49% of Baby Boomers.

Author Websites and Self-Promotion

Dickens poster

Charles Dickens was a big self-promoter and if he were writing today he would definitely have a website and be on social media.

I have built websites for several authors and their needs are generally similar. (A few of my samples are here.) If someone just typed your name in the search bar, what would we find? Chances are they are looking to find out About You (biography), your Publications, any Events you might be involved in (readings, workshops) some samples of your writing, and a way to Contact you. And those 5 topics make up a reasonable starting place for a website menu.

For a business, if you don’t have a website you don’t exist, and for a published (or hoping to be published) author that is also true. It has been true for a decade or so that having a website is a mark of validity. (That is unfortunately also true for conspiracies, scams, and questionable groups.)

Every writer should have a website as a way to market and promote yourself and your writing, build your audience and sell your work.

I have worked on designing sites for a number of writers who were actually told by their publisher that having a site was a requirement for being published. The bigger publishers often will host a page for your book with a few of those elements but a lot of the marketing of writers (especially novices) falls on the author. Self-promotion is important.

I wrote recently about some tips to help you boost your search engine optimization (SEO). One of those ways is for authors to have a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. It can also be having a blog as part of your website so that fresh material is out there about you. If the only update to an author site is when they have a new book (which might be a year or years apart), people are not going to return to your pages.

Authors use blog features to stay in touch with their readers. You can also guest blog on other writers’ sites. In this past pandemic year, online blog and book launch tours and interviews became commonplace. Even commenting on other people’s blogs and including your name and website URL helps.

Search engine spiders are out there 24/7 on the web looking for changes to web pages to feed their algorithms. If your site remains the same, it doesn’t help your SEO or hold your audience.

Typically, there is a lot of time between books, so short-form publications keep your name visible. Publications in periodicals can bridge the gaps. Offering some new writing as a blog post, memoir, story excerpt, poem also keeps the gap filled.

Having social media followers helps build audience. Besides the obvious big platforms like Twitter or Facebook, consider offering some video. Audiences are quite wiling to watch short videos recorded with some care on a phone and posted on YouTube (which also allows you and others to easily share on their own sites).

I believe you should own your name as a domain and as a handle on social media sites. You should also do that by creating accounts on some sites where book authors are featured. Check out Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookBub and
LinkedIn (particularly for nonfiction writers and journalists).

Being a self-published indie writer is more common and accepted today. In the last century, a lot of “vanity presses” would print your book for a price and do little else for you. Now, sites for self-publishing offer more from social promotion to press releases to entering your book in contests. If you are in control of your own book distribution, then get it with as m. Everyone thinks first of Amazon and yes it should be there, but also consider Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, OverDrive, Libby, Hoopla, Scribd, Tolino, Playster, Bibliotheca, and Baker & Taylor.

Today, authors need to do more of the promotion than ever before and it is easier to do it than ever before.