Despite the common misconception that websites are for businesses that sell products online, businesses aren’t limited to an online (eCommerce) store. In fact, businesses have many options and many possibilities when it comes to websites. Which is great news because there are many businesses out there!
Each business is unique, and each has unique goals, unique business models, and unique problems. Therefore, they should be treated as such – with a unique solution!
While every website type listed below might not suit your business, knowing your business’s goals will help you choose the best match.
Think of this as being much like a traditional print brochure, online. The main goal is to relay information about a business and its products or services.
It allows visitors to learn about the business and do their research on a product or service. However, it doesn’t process payments or allow purchasing. Customers would contact or visit the business in order to make a purchase.
While consumers today want speed, it doesn’t mean that they won’t purchase from a brick and mortar store over shopping online… It’s likely that they would have done their research before visiting or getting in touch, which is why it’s beneficial for a business to have information available.
Brochure sites are a great place to get started! This type of website is lower maintenance, as businesses don’t have to update them as often as an eCommerce website – where managing products and promotions are constant. Brochure sites are a little easier on the budget as well. They don’t take as much time to build or require as many features, functions, and design elements as other types of sites.
Brochure sites typically feature a home, about, product / service, and contact sections. They can either be laid out into separate pages or one continuous page, and they can work well for small businesses, as well as corporate or non-profits.
Magazine / News
The purpose of this type of website is to feature articles, photos, and videos. Magazine style websites work well for news, education, and entertainment purposes.
Businesses with a lot of resources or content to offer can benefit from this style. Some examples are news outlets, fashion magazines, university publications, and niched interest or hobby collectives.
Often we see these types of websites offer all or limited free content. The businesses behind them make money through advertising, affiliate marketing, or offering premium content or all-access subscriptions.
These sites are high maintenance as they require consistent updates in order to keep visitor / subscriber interest. They risk becoming stale if left too long. Starting and maintaining a site like this would require a lot of planning and resources. However, they do have to potential to offer multiple revenue streams.
Also known as an online shop or store, customers can purchase products and services directly through an eCommerce website. They often include elements of a brochure site, along with a catalogue of products or services with images and descriptions, a virtual shopping cart, checkout and payment processing.
Businesses can benefit from being able to serve customers outside of travelling distance and orders can be made outside of business hours. They also cater to those who prefer (or need) to shop online. In some cases, having an eCommerce store eliminates the need for a physical store altogether.
These sites are high maintenance as product stock and promotions need to be updated often. They also take more time and resources to get up and running. Businesses need to consider the initial design and development. In addition, they need to consider product uploads, and getting a process up and running (payment, shipping etc.). That being said, eCommerce stores can also help reduce some of the steps in the sales process; in-store as well when it comes to inventory and product inquiries.
A blog is much like a magazine or news website in that it features articles, photos, and videos. However, an individual or small group is usually behind it. Also, written entries are “posts” versus articles.
The content of a blog is more like a journal or casual information site, typically centred around a particular subject.
It’s also becoming more common for businesses and sole proprietors to incorporate a blog into their content marketing strategy. By providing valuable content to their target audience they can show off the benefits of a product or their expertise, which can attract potential clients.
Blogs can be a stand-alone site, although they also pair well with brochure, eCommerce, and portfolio sites. Individuals or businesses behind blogs can also make money through advertising or affiliate marketing.
While blogs aren’t too costly to build, depending on their functionality, they can be a lot of work. When deciding whether or not to create a blog it’s a good idea to make sure you have the time or resources to post consistently. Otherwise, you may risk losing the interest of followers or clients if the information / website seems stale and outdated.
This type of website is an excellent solution for businesses and professionals to showcase their work. They typically have the most unique and creative layouts, but can be simple as well.
High quality images are a must have for a portfolio site. Even if it isn’t a photography or design portfolio, the images should be clear and presented well.
This type of website is mainly visual, however, it’s also a good idea to include a bit about the individual or business, their services, and some testimonials. This information will help potential clients make their choice.
Adding some personal branding such as a logo and tagline will also make a big difference! Are you a “photographer” or are you a “Toronto based wedding photographer”? A “builder” or a “builder of luxury cabins in Parry Sound”?
Websites often focus on learning about a business and its products, services, credentials etc… A landing page is a stand-alone page with only one focus. Typically they’re part of a marketing campaign, where visitors find themselves on a landing page upon clicking a link.
A landing page includes a form or other action for visitors to take. When visitors complete the form or action, they receive something in return. Some examples are premium content, a consultation, or a discount in exchange for their contact information, subscription, or purchase.
Landing pages also include (minimal) copy to explain what visitors receive and a call to action button such as “order now” or “get a subscription.” It’s also a good idea to include a title to let visitors know it’s in relation to the link.
The steps a visitor takes looks something like this:
- Interested, the visitor clicks the link
- The landing page gives them more information with an offer
- They know the next steps and can choose to take them
The downside to these is that they can be costly. The person setting up the landing page really has to know their audience and their landing pages. If done incorrectly, a landing page could just be another step between a business and its customer.
Web application / membership
Software runs locally, on your operating system. A web application is software that runs on someone else’s computer (a web server). There’s no need to download a web app, and it will adjust to fit the device it’s being accessed from.
While websites focus on the output of information, web applications typically focus on input. They’re interactive. Social media, wiki, and online banking sites are some examples.
So how could a small business use a web app? They can work well for internal customer relationship management (CRM), or for project / workflow management. You could also create a membership website, customer portal, or loyalty program to build customer relationships.
There are many possibilities, and custom web apps are typically catered to your exact needs. Even if that need is simply tying together all the other web apps you use into one place.
One of the biggest downsides to this is budget. Depending on the size of the project, it’s likely to cost more than a website. However, you don’t need approval from apps stores with web apps if selling access / memberships.
An individual, organization, or brand can create a community forum. They typically centre around a topic of interest or community support.
So how do they fit in with your business or brand?
Businesses and brands can create a community forum to help answer questions about their products or service. They can also use it as a means to share their expertise along with tips and tricks. In addition, it gives existing customers a place to share their knowledge and feedback.
Some examples of community forums are:
- GitHub – developers share project files, collaborate, and network with others
- Houzz – homeowners can discuss DIY projects and share ideas
- Affinity Support – users of the software can ask for support, answer questions, share resources and submit feature requests
Perhaps your home decorating business can host a community forum where you can share your expertise? Maybe your clothing store would like a place for customers to share their latest look and style tips? Community forums a great way for like-minded individuals to support one another and build relationships. They can also be fun!
Now that you’ve read about the eight types of websites highlighted in our post, what type of website would you like to build? If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us, and we’d be happy to help.
Also, you might like our post – Ask Your Potential Developer : 14 Questions that features questions you can ask your potential developer before hiring them.