Types of Websites (Website Variations)
- eCommerce Website
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.
If you’re learning how to start a website for your business and plan to sell your products through the site, then this is the type of website you need to build. There are some specific steps you have to be sure to include when building an eCommerce website, like investing in eCommerce software and 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.
Ecommerce websites can be an extension of a business you already have, or become something you build a new business around.
- Business 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.
- Entertainment Website
If you think about your internet browsing habits, you can probably think of a few websites that you visit purely for entertainment purposes. They could be humor websites like The Onion, webcomics like xkcd, or just websites with fun or interesting content like Buzzfeed.
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.
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.
- Portfolio Website
Portfolio websites are sites devoted to showing examples of past work. Service providers who want to show potential clients the quality of the work they provide can use a portfolio website to collect some of the best samples of past work they’ve done. This type of website is simpler to build than a business website and more focused on a particular task: collecting work samples.
This type of website is most common for creative professionals and freelancers that are hired based on demonstrated skill and can be a more efficient alternative to a business website that serves a similar focus.
- Media Website
Media websites collect news stories or other reporting. There’s some overlap here with entertainment websites, but media websites are more likely to include reported pieces in addition to or instead of content meant purely for entertainment. This category includes sites like the Washington Post website, Slate, and Inc.
Media websites generally make money through either advertisements that show up on the site, subscription models, or some combination of the two.
Many media websites are the online branch of media properties that often exist in other forms, like TV channels or print magazines and newspapers, but some are online only.
- Brochure Website
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 recognize 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.
- Nonprofit Website
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 organization is a crucial step in proving your legitimacy and reaching more people. You can use it to promote the projects your organization 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.
- Educational Website
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 Website
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.
- Personal Website
Not all websites exist to make money in some way or another. Many people find value in creating personal websites to put their own thoughts out into the world. This category includes personal blogs, vlogs, and photo diaries people share with the world.
Sometimes these websites can evolve into something that makes money if they become popular enough and the person who started them wants to make that shift, but they primarily exist as a way to share your feelings, insights, and art with any friends and strangers that might be interested.
Building a personal website is easier than most of the other websites on the list since the goal has lower stakes. You just want to make it look like you want, rather than worrying about driving sales or making ad money. Some simple templates or an easy-to-use website builder should be all it takes to get something up that satisfies your desire to share.
- Web Portal
Web portals are often websites designed for internal purposes at a business, organization, 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 personalized 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 organize available information and resources into a central space that you want others to have access to.
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