Top 4 Website Types and How To Tell Which Your Business Needs
Why do you need a website?
Is it to drive sales for your brand? Is it to increase awareness in your brand? Is it to establish credibility and trust in your brand? Is it to educate your audience around your brand? Or is it to simply build your brand?
All of these are some of the most fundamental reasons for building a website around your brand. But understanding which reasons are most applicable to you and your brand is key to understanding how your website should be built and to whom it should cater.
In this article, we will highlight four overarching types of websites that can encompass the versatile business landscape that you work in while honing in on a specific website purpose that meets your brand’s needs. The four overarching types are Marketing, eCommerce, Web Applications, and Content-Based.
Are you trying to reach your audience with key information that you think will help turn potential customers into loyal ones? If you want someone who visits your website to take some sort of action (Contact Us, fill out a form, etc.), you will probably need some kind of marketing website. Marketing websites are helpful for companies interested in growing their lead generation efforts (for B2B or high-ticket products) and/or providing information to potential customers.
Having your website focus on lead generation is probably an obvious idea. After all, why would you pay for a website if it doesn’t generate more customers for your business? But with B2B or high-cost products in particular, lead generation is often about building enough buy-in from potential customers that they are ready to take the next step with your brand. This can translate into them clicking on a contact link that provides you with their information and allows you to follow up; this can be through a form that they fill out that places them on your monthly newsletter; or it can be that your brand is simply one that they know now and trust more relative to others. If your product or service has a long close cycle before a customer is ready to make a purchase, your website might be a key reference in their buyer journey to check for information as it becomes relevant to their discovery process.
Another key purpose of a marketing website is to provide a credibility check in your customers’ buyer journey. Think about how important a portfolio is to provide credibility and proof of the quality of your work or how a published research paper could lend credibility to an intellectual institution. In addition to making sales for your business on its own, marketing websites can simply exist to enable sales or build demand for your brand.
eCommerce sites offer a platform to sell a product or service for any given brand. On eCommerce websites, often the transaction is between a business and a consumer (B2C) where the entire buyer journey takes place on your website. There is a directness and ease with which the website must point customers to their products and a prioritization of simplicity in the transaction of their shopping experience. Take for example Patagonia’s website. It sells products, educates customers, and offers content to people with interests in environmental activism. Despite having other components, the website’s primary function is to let customers shop and browse products with ease. You can buy any one of their hundreds of products and complete the transaction right on their site without any third party.
With eCommerce websites you will see some overlap with marketing sites. Inherently, eCommerce sites use marketing techniques, whether that be a marketing homepage or some other form of building brand affection, before they dive straight into selling products to customers. Let’s look at Patagonia’s website again. On the homepage (as of November 1, 2021) there is a dedication to a book entitled “Life Lived Wild” in which someone visiting the page can explore more about this outdoors-related memoir. This type of brand definition on the homepage is a marketing technique that helps in establishing Patagonia’s brand as dedicated to the planet and to outdoors activities.
Web applications are software that exist inside of a browser in order to provide advanced experiences to users. They provide users with an ability to create or manage certain tasks and projects just like a mobile application or software would let them, but with the ease of having a web browser open. Two examples of popular web applications are Google Drive and Canva. You’ll notice with these two, they have pretty distinct purposes. In Google Drive it is to create documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoints, among other things. And in Canva it is to design a poster, a flyer, or some other form of visual.
Web applications can be multi purposeful. In fact, web applications are usually a part of a much larger website that includes marketing, eCommerce, and content-based functions, sometimes existing in the same umbrella domain with a distinctive subdomain. For example, you might see a subdomain such as app.domain.com to indicate that you are on a web application. Web Application websites differ from Marketing and eCommerce websites because their primary function is not to sell or to create lead generation. If you look at Fidelity's website, it clearly has multiple components. It has a marketing side that attracts potential customers to open an account with the investment bank, but it also has a web application side that allows customers to conduct transactions. The point being, web application sites often have multiple functions and at the end of the day they provide software through the convenience of a web browser.
The final type of website that we’ll cover is content-based websites. These sites, as their name implies, focus on providing content to their users. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, video channels (such as Youtube, Netflix, etc.) are all examples of content-based websites. Brands can gate-keep these sites through subscriptions or other purchasing methods, but their primary purpose is to provide high quality content. Many content-based websites are also web applications due to the complexity of software that is required in order to deliver such high quality experiences. For example, the New York Times website offers many formats of high quality content to their users which often includes interactive components and forms of data visualization that require technologies beyond a basic website. They will also have a paywall so that customers can subscribe to and buy their product, which makes their website function as an eCommerce platform, web application, as well as a content-based website.
Many companies use content for demand generation and marketing purposes to educate potential customers on the need and effectiveness of their product. You may have seen examples of videos or articles on company websites that explain how to use their product or service, which is an example of how content-based websites can be used for marketing. Similarly many content-based websites sell subscriptions or merchandise in addition to offering free content. Having a content-based component to your website can provide benefits to your website’s SEO as well as increasing your brand’s customer loyalty and retention.
Did you learn anything about the different types of websites? What type of website(s) do you think your company has or may need? Let us know on our social channels and subscribe to our newsletter for the latest content!