You know you need a website to compete in today’s digital economy. But do you know what type of website you need?
In general, websites can be categorized in numerous ways. However, websites intended for business use can be broadly grouped into three categories:
Understanding the type of website you need will provide clarity and direction when designing and developing your website. Ultimately, knowing the type of website you need will help you create a website that adds value to your organization.
The primary purpose of a marketing website is to generate leads online so you can conduct transactions offline. This type of website is most common for service based businesses such as contractors, home builders, plumbers, lock smiths, and professional services such as lawyers, doctors and dentists.
Since the primary purpose of a marketing website is to generate leads, the design is focused around getting consumers to call you or complete and submit a web form.
The primary purpose of a publishing website is to generate revenue through online advertising and affiliate programs. This type of website is most common for news organizations and bloggers.
Because revenue is generally derived from visitors clicking on ads or affiliate links, the design of a publishing website is focused on where to place ads and links.
Designing a successful publishing websites requires an understanding of how people interact on websites and specifically, how people consume content - whether that’s long form text or videos.
The primary purpose of an ecommerce website is to transact sales online. This type of website is most common for retailers and anyone who wants to sell physical goods online. While you can sell digital service online, you don’t necessarily need all the functionality of a traditional ecommerce website to do so.
Ecommerce websites are the most complex type of website due to all the moving parts. Unlike marketing and publishing websites, Ecommerce websites have to account for features such as abandon cart follow up, shipping, returns, etc… There is a lot of functionality that goes into a well designed ecommerce website, that requires specific knowledge and skills.
There is a fourth type of website which we refer to as a hybrid website. A hybrid website incorporates features from two or more of the websites mentioned above.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of hybrid websites.
A marketing website may incorporate elements of a publishing website or vice-versa. An example is any website that incorporates a blog. While most blogs on a marketing website are not intended to generate revenue in the traditional publishing sense, the published content can help generate leads, which is the primary focus of a marketing website.
An example of a marketing website that might incorporate ecommerce functionality is a bed and breakfast (B&B) establishment. The primary purpose of a B&B is to rent rooms. While their primary objective is to generate leads, they may also provide the ability for consumers to book and pay for their reservation online.
While the B&B is utilizing Ecommerce functionality in this example, they don’t require a full-blown Ecommerce implementation. They don’t need to worry about shipping and returns, etc.
A publishing website may incorporate e-commerce functionality to sell a few products or services, such as books, courses, or training. Ultimately, they’re not expecting to transact a lot of sales online as it’s not the primary purpose of the website. Therefore they most likely won’t need all the features and functionality of a full-blown ecommerce website.
There are endless possibilities for hybrid websites. The examples above are only scratching the surface. The key takeaway is this, as a small business the purpose of your website will most likely skew towards one of the the types of websites outlined above - even if you have the need for a hybrid website.
Before you hire a company to design your website, make sure you understand the type of website you need. The easiest way to determine what type of website you need is to ask yourself what the primary purpose of your website is. Why do you need a website? How will it add value to your organization?
If you’re trying to get consumers to contact you so that your sales people can follow up with them, then you most likely need a marketing website. If you want to generate revenue from the content you publish, you’ll want a publishing website. If you want to transact sales online for the sale of goods or services, you’ll need an Ecommerce website.
Now that you have an overview of the different types of business websites, there’s no excuse for not hiring the right web design company for your needs.
Just as there are different types of websites, there are different types of web design companies. Some web design companies specialize in marketing websites, while others specialize in publishing or Ecommerce websites. Make sure you hire a web design company that specializes in the type of website you need.
Don't assume the web design company you hire knows what you need or is experienced and skilled at it. For example, at STRADEGY.CA, we specialize in designing and developing marketing websites for service businesses. Our specialty is helping service businesses generate leads online. If an organization comes to us looking for an Ecommerce website, we have to politely decline their business because it is not our area of expertise.
Each type of website requires specific knowledge and skill sets. Unless you engage a large web design agency, which can be expensive, it can be hard to find a web design company well versed in all types of websites. Take your time and do your research - hire a web design company that has experience delivering results for other businesses like yours.
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Toby is the founder and managing director of STRADEGY.CA. He's been helping service businesses grow their bottom line online for over 25 years.
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