Struggling to decide what sort of website would suit your business? I give you a brief summary of how web design has evolved as well as the different types of websites out there. I’ve also got recommendations based on my experiences as a web designer for which one you should probably choose. If you keep in mind that a website is functional and needs to do exactly what your ideal customers are expecting, choosing a website type will be a walk in the park.
Hello there! Welcome to the Help! My Website Sucks podcast. You are listening to me, your host and freelance web designer Amy Gumbrell. I love talking about all things websites but what I love even more is helping others navigate the wonderful world of web design. I’m truly grateful you’re here and if you want to listen to future episodes, hit the follow button now. Over on social media I’m @twocowsweb so do pop over and say hi.
I’d like to share some of my own experiences as a web designer and some of the common questions and issues that pop up again and again. This episode is all about the different types of websites out there and what is going to work best for you and your business. I’m even going to talk about how web design has changed over time just because I did say this podcast was a guide to web design so you are welcome. As you can probably tell, this is going to be a bumper episode so let’s get cracking!
In the early days the internet wasn’t accessible on your mobile phone and tablets were a distant dream back then. If you were lucky enough to be able to view websites, you probably did so with a desktop computer so there was absolutely no need to make them more complex. Websites were static – they remained a fixed width of pixels and they didn’t change for anything with seems rather unfathomable in this day and age. Believe it or not though, you may still come across websites built this way. I however would not recommend it. At. All.
After static websites came those websites designed using fluid or liquid web design. This is when the width of the page elements such as images and text boxes are set proportional to the width of the screen so it would look the same on all devices except the page elements would be wider or narrower. Now some people do like to replace the word fluid with responsive which is something you may have heard of but personally I don’t agree. Responsive design doesn’t simply change the width of page elements, it rearranges or gets rid of page content depending on the screen size which helps to improve user experience.
In responsive web design we use breakpoints. These are specific widths in pixels of the user’s visible area of a web page. When this changes, it triggers a change in the layout. For example you may use your laptop to shop at an online store where all the products are laid out in a row of three spaced evenly across the screen yet when you’ve gone to view the same website on your mobile phone suddenly those products are on top of each other in a stacked column so you have to scroll down to view them. This is such a common feature of modern day websites you may not even realise it’s an actual thing!
So after that brief history of web design, let’s move on and talk about the types of websites available. The one that you may have heard of is a brochure site. This does exactly what it says on the tin. It is your online version of the glossy magazine sitting in the reception area of your company. It offers your potential customers a clear snapshot of everything that is important to know about you and your business before they make contact. In my experience many small businesses and freelancers opt for a brochure site. However that being said a brochure site underpins many of the other types of websites I’m going to talk about. We are simply adding extra bits and pieces to a brochure site to make it do different things for you and your business.
Something you may like to add to your website is a blog. Having a blog on your website is a massive awesome happy high five for those search engine rankings. More on how a blog is good for SEO another time perhaps. In fact you’ll find that a blog is a standard feature of many websites but it can also be considered as a stand alone website type. For example WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform and is still known for its top notch features. By blog I mean a ‘log of something informational on the web ‘ a ‘web log’ if you will. For example you may have an interest in fashion and want to create a blog to record and share your thoughts and opinions on various fashion related topics such as next seasons hottest leggings or perhaps your favourite type of shoe. It is entirely up to you!
Moving on, swiftly, we’ve got portfolio websites. These are a great way to connect with customers where showing examples of your work helps to explain your value. Those in the creative industries such as graphic designers, web designers (hello!), artists, photographers to name a few would find this type particularly useful. It’s also a great way to showcase presentations, podcast appearance and talks you may have given. I think a portfolio website is a great example of the idea of ‘show, don’t tell’ – works a treat!
This brings us nicely on to some really specific website types. Is your business goal to create an online digital magazine or journal? A magazine website is what you need. Although there has been a move back to print media with wonderful indie publishers creating gorgeous slap it in your hand magazines, there are still lots of consumers out there using technology to catch up on and follow the latest news. To get this type of website right, the design and layout needs to be consistent with how your customers read articles. It should allow you to cram in as much content as possible on each page. This is clever, well-thought out web design and thankfully there are lots of examples out there from the massive national news websites to small, niche companies creating regular content perfect for their particular audiences.
For those with businesses where you run events and your goal is to get people to go to them, yep you’ve guessed it, try an events booking website. Two key features jump out at me when getting these types of websites right – number one- an events booking system software that is easy to use must be integral to the design and number two – it must inspire excitement and anticipation the minute your visitor arrives at your website. It has to grab their attention and then turn it into action. Do you want them to book the event straight away or do you want their email address to build up a subscriber list of potential attendees for future events? Once you know, what you want from them, you can design a beautiful events booking website.
They do cross over with other types of websites such as membership, directory and e-commerce websites. It all depends on what your goals are. A membership site simply put offers content that only members of that website can see. They’re given login details to a password protected area on the website sometimes for a fee to provide additional value. For example you may sign up for an event on the events booking website but in order to buy tickets for that event at a discounted rate, you may pay to be a member.
If you’ve got a business that wants to provide a service for the local community such as a list of local cafes, a directory website may be exactly what you need. You could add in a membership element to your directory website by asking local cafes to pay to be featured or you could add an events booking element to highlight local cafes running events. The possibilities are endless. Many of these combinations have one thing in common that they use on their websites and that is sales – namely selling online or e-commerce.
This is probably the website type most people can identify straight away as most people have bought a product or service online before. So for business, whatever your set up large or small, having a website that facilitates online selling opens up a myriad of possibilities. You can use e-commerce for so many types of transactions and it doesn’t matter if it’s business to business or business to consumer, or even consumer to consumer, there is truly an e-commerce option for you. We’ve got retail, wholesale, dropshipping, crowdfunding, subscriptions, physical products, digital products, services and everything in between. In fact I’m pretty sure I don’t need to sell this type of website to you (pun very much intended) but just a wee word of warning – setting up an e-commerce website throws up lots of interesting challenges to overcome so it is not for the faint hearted. Personally I love working on e-commerce sites because I love that design and functionality are having a bit of a showdown – neither will budge yet they are both equally important and my job is to find a way for them to get along and work in harmony. Surely it’s every web designers dream?
OUTRO : Well that was a lot of information about websites wasn’t it? Did you find it helpful? Have I mentioned any that you think may suit you and your business? I really do hope so and if you want to tell me all about it, I’m @twocowsweb on social media. You could even leave me a review too if you like and of course please hit follow to listen to more episodes about web design. Thank you for listening and good bye for now. See you next time!
For more information visit twocowsweb.co.uk/podcast. Help! My Website Sucks is a Vibrant Sound Media production.