Building a website for your business is a big investment, the web is littered with examples of abandoned sites that seemed like a good idea at the time (and probably were), but just weren’t the right site at the right time. With so many different options out there, choosing the right type of site is key to making it work for you, but also to prevent you spending much more than you need to.
According to Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist and author of Your Customer Creation Equation, there are five basic formulas for websites.
1.) The brochure site
What it does: A brochure site does what it says on the tin. It is glossy, polished and like most brochures exists to get people to call or visit you.
Who needs it: This site will work well for you if you have a store, product or service that is mostly offline such as a salon, high street shop or trade. They are a good option if you want a low maintenance shop window for your business.
What it takes: Brochure sites can be fairly easy and quick to set up, but make sure you get a good designer and make it easy for your customers to get in contact with you. It will often be people’s first impression of you, so make it a good one.
2.) The publication site
What it does: Publication sites can range from big news sites like the BBC through to your personal blog. They are all about information, and often they won’t sell anything directly, but make their money through advertising.
Who needs it: People who have something to say. Publication sites can be great for creating and sustaining online communities, so if you have a specific area of interest (that is interesting to other people as well) or a cause to fight for these sites can be a powerful tool.
What it takes: The wide range of blogging platforms available mean that you can start a simple publication site quite quickly, but don’t be fooled, it is going to take a lot of elbow grease to build your community or readership and you’ll need to consider how to support your site e.g. affiliates.
3.) The online store
What it does: Stores sell things. The rise and rise of sites like Amazon and Ebay have lead to a generation of online entrepreneurs and online stores now sell almost any product or service you can think of.
Who needs it: An e-commerce site is a bit like having a supermarket online, so it is going to best suit businesses with a simple product that people already understand and want. It is a lot easier to sell and ship a £10 DVD online than a £15,000 mobile home!
What it takes: A true e-commerce store will require a lot of thought to get the customer journey and offer right. Unless you have a very big budget, stick to a templated site, but make sure that it is a good one and don’t skimp on the design or integration either – people will only come back if they enjoyed the experience last time.
4.) The consultative site
What it does: A consultative site is a bit like the next generation of brochure site. It is still a shop window, but it is going to provide a lot more content – it is all about ensuring a reader has enough information and the right information to make a decision about what they want.
Who needs it: Businesses that have a complex product or service. The perfect example would be a mortgage company, you probably wouldn’t buy your mortgage over the internet, but it would probably be the first place you looked for information about where you would.
What it takes: Like a brochure site, it may be the first impression customers have of you, so make sure it is designed well and make sure that you dedicate enough time and resource to ensure that you have a steady supply of relevant, up-to-date and unique content that will show you are the expert and have the best product for them.
5.) The online service
What it does: With an online service, often the site is the product such as an app or subscription based service. The site is the sales team, customer service department and product all in one.
Who needs it: This is quite specific because it is only going to apply to people with a pure online product such as an app developer or on-line service provider. Wave Accounting are a good example of this type of site.
What it takes: A site like this going to need good sales content such as videos, demonstrations or trials as well as email integration and customer service support. It’s a big investment, but it is the biggest part of your business after all!