Deciding on the type of website you’re making right from the outset can save you plenty of time in the long run. Because if you spend time and effort on making a certain type of site, only to be forced to try and turn it into something entirely different, it can be quite a painful – not to mention costly – experience.
This scenario is especially true of e-commerce sites, as they require special facilities, web hosting (opens in new tab) and coding that a different kind of website certainly won’t need.
There is little point going to the expense of creating a site with all the functionality to sell products if you’ve no intention of offering online sales. And equally, adding this functionality into a site that was previously meant to be a blog or portfolio solution is going to be a frustrating experience.
So what sort of website do you need? Let’s explore some of the main types of sites, and whether they fit the bill for you.
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1. Main business site
Every major company has a main site, the one that you’re invariably directed to if you put the firm’s name into a search engine, because it’s returned at the top of the search results.
At this location, you should find all the information about products and services that are offered by the business, and be able to establish a communication channel for sales, support or marketing.
If the company concerned has many products or supports multiple markets, the main site often has a very limited selection of pages at the top level, with a series of subdomains representing various functions layered below that, all of which are separate websites you can visit.
By choosing this model, the site structure ends up less complex and allows for the isolation of e-commerce technology on the sections associated with financial transactions.
For companies that aren’t big blue chip or multinational affairs, the main business site can be something entirely different – like a blog.
2. The blog
When blogs first appeared they were generally a personal site with a stream of thoughts on a subject or the life of the blogger.
Like most things on the internet they’ve evolved, and they now combine the regular blogging function with branded sponsorship, product reviews, site-related products (T-shirts, mugs, and so forth) and services.
A blog that does these things and utilizes targeted advertising can be a source of income for a popular blogger. And, with the regular income, it is much easier to justify the time spent in maintaining the site and creating new content.
Blogs can be code-built, made with website builders, or many creators choose to use the most popular blogging tool: WordPress.
Another useful monetization method is affiliation.
3. Product and services affiliation
Let’s imagine that you have a passion for lawnmowers, and you have a blog where you discuss the technology involved in mowing lawns and the latest products released in this sector.
If you can create a list of all the lawnmowers made by a given brand, and then link to another site where they are sold, a referral fee can be earned for directing your visitors to those locations.
Building one of these sites isn’t an overnight exercise, though, as accumulating enough content to attract visitors, and then gaining the trust of those readers, all takes time.
Those who pick the right products or services can be very successful, but getting there can easily take two or three years of work.
The consensus is that direct selling is an easier path.
4. Selling site
Most e-commerce sites started as a normal business doing work through either phone sales or with a retail bricks-and-mortar location. But now some start out from a website or by using eBay, or one of the other major selling portals.
These sites don’t generally need a blog or other content as they’re updated with new product lines and special offers as a means to generate traffic.
What these sites need most is a way for the product catalog to be easily searched and navigated. And, when the customer has found what they want, a means to process the order securely, and then confirm that order back to the customer.
While this might sound easy, there are numerous caveats to creating e-commerce sites that make them challenging to create and maintain.
Often the best way to create one is to buy an existing e-commerce model and then customize it with bespoke branding. That’s because building such a site from scratch is an expensive exercise that requires specialist knowledge.
5. Support systems
Not every site can be a big standalone venture, and often isolating a business offshoot with a unique web location has many advantages.
Here are a few of the better reasons for having a subdomain and associated website:
Everyone knows Kellogg’s, so well in fact that it has become the accepted term for Corn Flakes, even if it is technically a brand.
Fewer people know that the company that makes this breakfast cereal is called The Kellogg Company, and that it also makes a wide range of other products including crackers and cookies, plus it owns other well-known brands like Cheez-it.
Often those brands are more important to the organization than the holding company’s identity, and therefore a separate website is needed where promotional material can exist away from the corporate content.
The other advantage of branding sites is that they’re very easy to disappear should the brand or product fail, rather than attempting to remove all the references from the main site.
Product and service contract support is big business. And having a dedicated website that can manage that part of the operation can convince customers that they’re getting something useful for their money.
Usually, access to the internal resources on the support site is via customer login, and support requests are subsequently managed through a help desk software (opens in new tab) system that records the progression of the request.
By way of providing some self-help options, many support sites have an integrated forum, an extensive FAQ, and a complete collection of support documentation.
Having live support responders available for a chat is also common.
You have a new product or service, so naturally you want to direct customer interest in that to a specific new team who will follow those leads.
Achieving this is remarkably simple, and is usually done with just a single-page site that has the company branding and a contact form for those who want to register their interest.
What could be simpler?
Other website types
There are many site types that we’ve not covered in detail that are mostly variations on what we’ve mentioned or amalgamations of traditional types.
Artists, photographers, sculptors and artisans of all types often have sites that are effectively digital galleries, allowing potential customers to see the range and quality of work on offer.
Homage sites exist for musicians and actors, and there are also the likes of streaming media portals, historical reference collections and translation services. The variety of site content is almost endless, although they all build on the fundamental concepts of easily navigating through that content and directing the visitor so they can find the knowledge, service or product that they’re interested in.
The skills needed to build any type of website are essentially the same, except e-commerce sites, where financial transactions require specialist knowledge to handle safely.