When someone ask me, “Elizabeth, I need a website” my next question would be, “What kind of website do you need?”
One of the most rewarding things as a professional digital consultant is to share my passion for building websites. My eyes light up whenever I have an opportunity to educate my clients on all things related to website design and digital marketing strategy.
It’s a moment that allows me to inform people how websites can benefit their business, improve their way of life and at the same time dispel popular misconceptions.
Most people think a website is just their address on the World Wide Web. All you have to do is click on the URL or paste it on the address bar and you’ll land on the website.
Although oversimplified, the definition is fairly accurate.
But if you need a website, the more important considerations are as follows:
– What would make people want toclick on my URL?
– What would they do once they are in my website?
– How would the website help me achieve my goals or meet my objectives?
A website is more than just an address on the World Wide Web. With proper planning, strategy and purposeful design, a website can do more than just give you presence in the Internet.
The Different Types of Website
When you decide to have a website for your business, it doesn’t mean you have to sell products or services online. Of course you can. However, your website can play other roles that are likewise pivotal to the success of your business:
- – Build a larger fan or follower base.
- – Enhance your reputation as an expert or valuable resource.
- – Educate or inform your market about your business.
- – Establish communities of people who share the same interests.
- – Market and promote your business.
The type of website your business needs would depend on your goals, objectives and its purpose in your overall development strategy.
An eCommerce website is a website people can directly buy products from. You’ve probably used a number of eCommerce websites before, most big brands and plenty of smaller ones have one. Any website that includes a shopping cart and a way for you to provide credit card information to make a purchase falls into this category.
A robust e-commerce website makes it easy to browse products, filter by categories, highlight special sales and make purchases. An easy way to get started is through a full-solution, e-commerce platform like Shopify or Squarespace. You or your team can easily update online inventory and list new products. Plus, because the system is interconnected, sales, logistics and marketing are all kept apprised on what’s working well. On the design front, e-commerce platforms offer several templates that match the needs of nearly any business type.
There are some specific steps you have to be sure to include when building an eCommerce website, like getting your SSL certificate to ensure your customers can pay securely. And you’ll want to make sure your web design and copy are all crafted with the site’s main goal in mind: making sales.
Brochure websites are a simplified form of business websites. For businesses that know they need an online presence, but don’t want to invest a lot into it (maybe you’re confident you’ll continue to get most of your business from other sources), a simple brochure site that includes just a few pages that lay out the basics of what you do and provide contact information may be enough for you.
Brochure sites were more common in the earlier days of the internet when businesses knew they needed a website, but also expected not to be dependent on it for success. Now that the internet is such a big part of how people research and find just about every product and service they need, most businesses recognise that they need something more competitive.
If you have a business and know you don’t need your website to be a marketing tool that brings in new business, you just need something more like an online business card, then a brochure website may do the trick.
Business / Lead Generation Website
A business website is any website that’s devoted to representing a specific business. It should be branded like the business (the same logo and positioning) and communicate the types of products and/or services the business offers.
By now, every business out there should have a website. It’s a widespread expectation. Every potential customer you encounter will just assume that if they Google your business looking for more information, they’ll find a website. And if they don’t, it makes the business look less professional or legitimate.
E-commerce websites are business websites, but it’s also possible to have business websites that don’t sell anything directly, but rather encourage visitors to get in contact for more information (a lead generation website) or come to a storefront if they’re interested in becoming customers.
The websites of educational institutions and those offering online courses fall into the category of educational websites.
These websites have the primary goal of either providing educational materials to visitors, or providing information on an educational institution to them.
Some educational websites will have advertisements like entertainment and media websites do. Some offer subscription models or educational products for purchase. And some serve as the online presence for an existing institution.
Infopreneur websites overlap a bit with business and eCommerce websites, but they represent a unique type of online business.
Infopreneurs create and sell information products. That could be in the form of courses, tutorials, videos or ebooks.
Whatever form it takes, infopreneurs need their website to do the hard work of building up a knowledge brand – convincing visitors that they know enough to make their educational products worth buying – and the work of selling those products.
To sell information products securely, they’ll need some of the same tools of an eCommerce website, including an SSL certificate and a merchant account. Those with a lot of knowledge products should also invest in eCommerce software to make it easier for visitors to select and purchase the ones they’re interested in.
Infopreneurs normally create a mix of valuable free content and premium content they charge for.
The infopreneur’s website serves as the central location for both things – the free content which serves as a marketing tool to get people onto the site, and the paid products that account for their profits. Building a good website is therefore crucial for this type of business model.
News or Magazine websites
A magazine website features articles, photos and videos that are informational and educational. In the last twenty years, the magazine industry has changed from a print-only platform to largely digital format. The magazine website type works well for informational websites, particularly publications from universities and organisations.
Most of these websites do aim to make money like business and e-commerce websites do, but usually through the advertisements that show up on the page rather than through selling specific products or services.
If you want to start an entertainment website, you’ve got a lot of options for formats that can take. You could make funny or informative videos, write entertaining blog posts, draw comics, or create fun quizzes.
As you think about creating a magazine site, start by building a basic framework. Users should see a similar layout no matter what day they land on your homepage, and each article must have a similar layout and navigation. Keep in mind how responsive the overall design is to different screen sizes to make sure your content is easily readable both on desktops and smartphones.
Since there are so many entertainment websites out there, you should anticipate it taking some time and work to find an audience that connects with you (and even more time and work to start making money, if that’s your ultimate goal), but if you’ve got ideas for content to create that you think people will find entertaining, an entertainment website is one of the best ways to get that content out into the world.
TV or video streaming
Netflix, along with similar sites like NowTV, have revolutionised the way the world watches television. These video streaming sites have seen their popularity soar in recent years, with catch-up sites like BBC iPlayer and All 4 representing more traditional examples of this particular website theme.
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from lots of different people. These types of websites are becoming a go-to resource for new startups.
In the past, the only way to fund a new business venture was to seek large investments from only a few people (think Dragon’s Den). But these days, you can create a crowdfunding site with ease – you’ll just need to create a pitch video for your project, and then set a target amount and deadline.
Internet users who believe in what you’re working on will pledge an amount of money to your cause. You can also offer incentives in exchange for donations, such as discounted products or VIP experiences.
In the same way that businesses need websites to be their online presence, nonprofits do as well. A nonprofit website is the easiest way for many potential donors to make donations and will be the first place many people look to learn more about a nonprofit and determine if they want to support it.
If you have or are considering starting a nonprofit, then building a website for your organisation is a crucial step in proving your legitimacy and reaching more people. You can use it to promote the projects your organisation tackles, encourage followers to take action, and for accepting donations.
Note: To take donations through the website, you’ll have to take some of the same steps that the owners of eCommerce sites do. In particular, make sure you get an SSL certificate to make sure all payments are secure, and set up a merchant account so that you can accept credit card payments.
Web portals are often websites designed for internal purposes at a business, organisation, or institution. They collect information in different formats from different sources into one place to make all relevant information accessible to the people who need to see it.
They often involve a login and personalised views for different users that ensure the information that’s accessible is most useful to their particular needs.
Web portals will generally involve more complicated programming and design than most of the other websites described on this list, so make the most sense for skilled and experienced web programmers to consider.
Wiki or Community Forum Website
Most people are familiar with wikis through the most famous example of one out there: Wikipedia. But wikis can be created on pretty much any subject you can imagine. A wiki is any website where various users are able to collaborate on content and all make their own tweaks and changes as they see fit. There are wikis for fan communities, for business resources, and for collecting valuable information sources.
Starting a wiki can be fairly simple, especially if you choose to use an existing software or wiki site builder rather than trying to create the website from scratch.
This option makes the most sense if you need to organise available information and resources into a central space that you want others to have access to.
A portfolio website allows creative professionals a place for showcasing their best work. This is perfect for artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, furniture builders—you name it.
As you build a portfolio, there’s no need to add every single project you’ve ever worked on. Instead, focus on creating categories of items and highlighting the best work from each category. A portfolio website is a bit more creative by nature, so this is the place to try unique layouts and add in interesting features.
A blog features regularly updated articles, photos and videos. Blogs started with more casual, personal content compared to magazines. But since then, the lines have blurred, and now it’s extremely common for major brands and businesses to have their own blog. Adding expert content improves the overall credibility of a company or an individual. Blogs also provide material for social media posts and email campaigns. They also improve aid SEO.
However, a blog can also become cumbersome for smaller companies. Make sure you have a team and strategy in place to keep content fresh before you consider launching one. It’s actually better not to have a blog and instead offer a few videos or guides, than to have a hopelessly outdated blog.
Social media websites
There are approximately 2.77 billion people on social media with dozens of different platforms available. No matter who your target audience is, you’ll probably find them on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or LinkedIn.
Although you can’t redesign the platforms themselves, you do have some control over the look of your page, and you can create content that drives social media shares.
Go for a consistent look across all your social media pages and web pages, so users instantly know your brand is behind the page. Use the same logo and color choices. Choose a specific voice and personality that shines across all content.
When creating content, focus on things that have a high potential of being shared on social media, such as entertaining videos, infographics, memes, in-depth reports and free offers.
A directory is a place where users can connect with you or others. This type of website works well when you want to list a repository of businesses or people within an organisation. For example, a local restaurant directory features eateries in the area with menus, price ranges, phone number and reviews.
The nature of an organisation creates an opportunity for a directory website. For example, an association of local dentists in a city might list each member, their area of expertise and their contact information. Keep this design option in your back pocket for clients.
A landing page is a specific page type created for a marketing campaign that drives visitors to take a specific action.
The content on a landing page should be limited and point toward the call-to-action (CTA) you’d like the user to take. Allow plenty of white space around your CTA and save elements not related to the purpose of that campaign for other pages.
Whatever type of website you choose to create, it’s important to think through what you want from it and make sure you design it based on the particular goals you have in mind. And one of the first things you’ll need to figure out before your website goes live is where to host it.
If you’re thinking about having a website, feel free to contact me and my team. We have done different types of websites to suit the needs of our clients. Give us a call or drop us an e-mail. We will be more than happy to share our experiences with you!