“Wait, what do you mean ‘type of website’? It’s a site on the web, a ‘website’. Is there more than one kind?”, you ask.
Why, yes there are. Professional website designers and developers know this because it’s our job. But the ubiquity of websites seems to produce and indifference to –or at least a lack of awareness of– the types of websites, and how they may contribute to the bottom line of a business.
Consider this: Maybe you don’t need a website
I like to tell some business owners not to get a website. I get a kick out of it because, if they know me, they know I’m a professional website designer and developer. So their reaction is priceless.
But why do I really do that? I want them to stop and think about their website request. It used to be that a business could get away with a hastily made website, then improvise a way to stay in touch with clients, do a little social media, and hope to be found through search. Not anymore. The market is a lot more sophisticated now.
We now have audiences that value design and usability, or have been spoiled by the better-designed sites. Visitors are navigating to your website using their mobile devices, and expect it to work perfectly, every time. And your audience may have a very short attention span when (and if) they finally get there.
In this environment, your business online marketing efforts are all part of —and work better as— a system. And systems must be well thought out. As the saying goes: “fail to plan, plan to fail”.
What I tell business owners now is: have a website designed and built as part of a larger social and online marketing strategy, following the best practices, and around your business goals.
See the difference?
Your business website as part of a marketing system
Your business, and your marketing system determine what type of website to make for your business.
Just like your type of business may determine what kind of vehicle to buy for it— a truck for a contractor, a small hybrid for a courier delivery service, none if you work from home— your marketing system determines the type of website you need.
Do you own a restaurant? Your prospective patrons are increasingly looking up your business on their mobile devices. When they find it, they typically care only about four things: Hours of operation, Menu, Phone number, and Location. You will benefit from a website that:
- focuses on serving this information first (information design)
- is mobile responsive (mobile-friendly)
- last but not least, is visually pleasant with strong branding (your business identity)
Do you offer professional B2B services? Your networking contact will visit your website and want to know more about your services. You will benefit from a website that:
- again, focuses on serving this information first (information design)
- offers some free information resources (shows expertise, builds trust)
- converts visitors into subscribers of your online newsletter (to nurture the leads)
Do you want to sell online? You will benefit from a website that:
- uses reliable, trusted shopping cart software and payment gateways, among many other things
As you can see, it’s best to think through your business needs and online marketing goals, then design a dynamic website around them. The goal here is to design and develop a website that is well though out, and optimized for conversions.
What is “Conversion Optimization”?
In the digital space, conversion optimization, or conversion rate optimization (a.k.a. “C.R.O.”) is the combination of strategies and tactics for increasing the number of website visitors that convert into taking any desired action on a web page.
A successful conversion depends on where your prospect is in the sales funnel, and what action is more important at that stage.
For example, for prospects in the Awareness stage, where they just learned about your business, a good conversion may be for them to land on, and spend some time in a certain page of your website.
We may want same prospect, once in the Consideration stage, to fill out a quiz or form for more information, call, or sign up for an email list.
In the Action stage, we would want that website visitor to sign up to a service, or buy a product.
For each desired action, some tactics work better than others, but we have to start with the right website.
The Five Types Of Websites
If all of the above sounds complicated, I hope it comes as a consolation that Brian Massey, also known as The Conversion Scientist, whittled it down to only five types of websites, and clearly defined them in his book “Your Customer Creation Equation. Unexpected Website Formulas of The Conversion Scientist” (aff.).
NOTE: This book was originally published in 2012. It’s quite the statement of Mr. Massey’s work that the taxonomy and definitions proposed then still stand, specially on matters of the web.
In his book, Mr. Massey not only defines the five types of sites, but goes further into explaining the strategies and tactics to succeed with each one. Sign up to the AllyOne Newsletter for future articles that go into more detail.
Here are the five types of websites:
Possibly the most common type of website, or at least the type of website most of us think about when we think of a professionally designed and developed website. The brochure website is mainly used for sales support. It exists mainly as away to quickly introduce the website visitor to one’s services.
Priorities in the brochure website:
This is a crucial place to establish branding. I don’t mean just a solid visual identity, slogans or mission statements. I mean answering the questions “Who are you?” and “why are you a better choice?”. Talk to a copywriter to polish your draft into a solid, marketable story.
Design and layout are key for this type of website. Good presentation is a key trust-building and conversion optimization factor.
Information is key, but not too much
On a brochure site, the visitor is looking for a quick answer to their question. Provide those answers using image-filled pages that focus on features and benefits of your products and services to the prospect.
Always provide contact and location information (if applicable), including click-to-call, contact forms, map, and schema markup for easy identification by local search engines.
Typical conversions of the brochure site:
- Make an appointment
- Complete contact form
- Store visit
- Schedule Service
Publication websites include all blogs and news sites. Think of it as a magazine, but online online.
When to use the Publication Website for business
One reason to use this model is to make a Brochure website more interesting to prospects. Providing regular articles on topics that are informative and useful to your protects is an integral part of content marketing.
But sometime, the Publication Website is its own business. For those businesses, the website can produce revenue through:
- Digital Products
Very Important for Publication website
Key for the publication website is to make it very easy to find the content that is relevant. Note, this means intuitive to the visitor, not you. To do this, put extra effort with your professional website designer or developer in fine-tuning the information architecture of the website.
Success for a publication website relies on strong promotion. Plan to promote the content by email, using social media, and always make it easy to be shared. To best promote your website, prioritize building an email list by making it easy to subscribe.
Typical Top Conversions for the Publication site:
- Email Subscriptions
- Joining, becoming a member (registration, for walled content)
- Free trial, sign up (for subscriptions)
Typical of B2B businesses with costly products or services, the Consultative site seeks to connect with the buyer (usually another business owner, or their purchasing agent). The way to do that is by addressing the prospects’ primary problems:
- Show understanding of their unique problems
- Show understanding of the solutions for complex business problems, their costs, and how their return-on-investment
- Introduce them to the sales process
Key aspects of the Consultative Site
The consultative website should usually be deep in information that supports the lengthy, complex sales process.
Help visitors correctly identify their problem. You may then get them to “buy” something with their contact info – a.k.a. Lead Generation. this first “transaction” is key in trust-building. Then, use email to support them in their decision. Properly designed autoresponders can keep the lead or prospect warm, and create further opportunities to contact them.
Typical Top Conversions for the Consultative Site:
- Signing up to a webinar, or to get a white paper
- Subscribing to an email newsletter
- Requesting an appointment or quote
The Online Store
An Online Store, of course, is a website where visitors purchase online. Other than customer service or store locators the online Store website typically does not provide any additional service. It’s used to sell. Anything; from one product to an entire catalog
Strategy for the Online Store
Make it easy find the product. Specifically, make it easy to find a solution to a problem for specific kinds of buyers. Try to address:
- Quick, logical researcher – specific goal, wants best solution now
- Quick, emotional researcher – make it quick and easy
- Deliberate, logical researcher – thorough researcher
- Deliberate, emotional researcher – will make a decision based on how it feels
Conversion Optimization tips for the Online Store
- Treat the product page as the landing page
- Fulfill the promise made to the visitor (brand)
- Call to actions: “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now”
- Make it easy to buy:
- Easy payment methods
- Easy shipping options
- Clearly state return policies
- Address customer concerns:
- “Am I paying a fair price?”
- “Can I trust this merchant with my credit card number?”
- “What if I’m not happy with the purchase when I receive?”
- “Will shipping charges wipe away my savings?”
- “Should I think about this some more before I take action?”
The Online Service
With an Online Service, a business provides a cloud-based service. Customers purchase access to this service. The service, in turn, is delivered via the site, app, desktop application, or all these options.
A Strategy for The Online Service
The goal here is to turn visitors into users. This requires the homepage to be designed as a lading page, and the very business pricing model to be designed for conversion. Typical tactics for this are:
- The use of a Freemium model that allows real-life use of the service to learn about its effectiveness or compatibility with the buyer’s needs. Free use, when limited by time, is considered a free trial.
- Pricing Tiers. These can serve both as an addon to the free tier, or as an upsell, opening up more features or capability o higher tiers.
Other tactics for The Online Service
- Get visitors to log in
- Give them specific tasks that demonstrate the value of the service
- Use email turn triers into buyers
- Ask them to become a paying customer
- Send frequently
- Leverage deadline – timed trials present scarcity
- Help them become expert users
Always remind them what you do, and why the service is valuable.
There’s more to this
Of course there is. One may combine the strategies and tactics in websites that cater to more than one audience or business goals. One may modify some of it (if you know what you’re doing).
Whatever you do, make sure you have this conversation with your professional website designer or developer before you build your next site, and sign-up to the newsletter to learn more about conversion optimization in future updates.