What does your perfect website look like?
If you’re just starting to build your online business, this is a tough question to answer. You may have some ideas jotted down, and you might even have some rough mockups or wireframes drawn up. Or, you might have no idea whatsoever.
Wherever you are in the process, you’re certainly not the first. With so many websites already (over 1.8 billion, to be more precise), there are many places to draw inspiration. Still, it may feel overwhelming trying to find which exact designs you want to incorporate.
That’s why it helps to focus on what type of website you’re looking to make. Different types of websites follow different design practices according to what visitors expect. Once you know what you want to create, you can look for similar examples to help you tackle the “how” of creating it.
You’ve probably seen many types of websites. So, to simplify things a bit, let’s review 11 common types of websites we see day-to-day. We’ll also review some examples of each type so you can see how they differ in site design and execution.
Types of Websites That You Can Make
- Business Website
- Ecommerce Website
- Entertainment Website
- News Website
- Nonprofit/Organization Website
- Membership Website
- Personal Website
- Knowledge Base
1. Business Website
A business website is a company’s digital presence — it presents a business for visitors. While business websites come in many sizes and shapes, they all aim to present the business’s products and services to visitors in a way that acquires new customers, clients, and/or partners.
Usually, business websites include descriptions of their offerings, and a way to either purchase through the website or contact the team to initiate a sale or partnership. From there, it’s all up to the business to decide what to include on its site — some sites are dense, while others are stripped-down with just one or a few pages. It’s all about what best aligns with your branding and what your target market wants to know.
Let’s look at two business sites that show this contrast. Modern Health is a personalized mental healthcare delivery service with a website that explains the app’s purpose, value, features, and plan options for employers. It accomplishes this with a mix of copy, videos, testimonials, infographics, and blog posts.
In contrast to Modern Health’s content-rich site, the website for Cambridge-based low-waste shop Cleenland has no frills. The layout and design choices are simple to give prospective customers all the information they need when planning a visit.
Whatever business site you’re trying to build, the most important thing is that you have one. When someone learns about your business and wants to know more, they’re likely to search your name online. When this happens, you’ll want your website to show up in search engine results, as it’s pretty much assumed any legitimate business these days has a website. If they can’t find yours, they’ll probably lose interest.
There are hundreds of solutions for building business websites (and websites in general), ranging from more involved and customizable content management systems like WordPress and CMS Hub to low-touch website builders like Squarespace and Wix. Business websites may also include ecommerce, blog, community, and knowledge base components as well, all to engage and convert visitors.
2. Ecommerce Website
Ecommerce websites sell products, be it physical goods or digital content. Visitors can browse the website’s listings, read up on product details, and purchase directly from the website. Ecommerce websites are focused entirely on retail, but business websites, blogs, and other website types may also host an online store for selling products or merchandise.
Ecommerce sites sell all sorts of things, but most stick to a familiar model — products are categorized and presented in a list format, and clicking an item brings users to a dedicated product page. Visitors can usually search for products as well via a search bar. On each product page, visitors can add the item to a virtual “shopping cart” or “shopping bag.” At any point users may enter the checkout process, in which they enter shipping and payment information to complete a purchase.
For an example of a visually engaging, informative ecommerce site, check out Briogeo Hair Products. Its pages capture attention with a rich pastel color palette to highlight its different products. The navigation menus include product thumbnails to reduce reading, and it displays its mission, results, and blog sections prominently alongside its shop.
Because ecommerce websites are often large, complex, and require infrastructure to securely handle payments and shipping, ecommerce platforms are a very popular go-to for new businesses launching online stores. Shopify is the leading option — for a monthly fee, it handles everything from site design to hosting to payment processing. Shopify also integrates with HubSpot to level-up your online marketing, sales, customer service, and analytics capabilities.
Blogging sites are difficult to define since their use has evolved so much over time. The blog (short for “weblog”) format began as a way for anyone to publish casual, long-form written content about their interests. Since then, blogging has been adopted by entrepreneurs and businesses to mark their presence online. Today, we can consider a blog to be any website that publishes written content in the form of articles (or blog “posts”) based around a topic.
If you’re an online business, a well-written, informative blog can be a major asset to your marketing strategy. It brings traffic to your site, establishes authority on search engines, converts visitors to leads, and eventually convinces those leads to take the next step to become customers. A blog that’s relevant to your business niche proves that you’re knowledgeable and committed to being the best in your industry.
If you need an example of business blogging in action, you’re looking at one! HubSpot writes four popular educational blogs — Marketing, Sales, Service, and Website — each filled with articles to help scaling businesses grow better.
Many individual bloggers have also found success, including Tim Urban. His blog, Wait But Why, explores topics in science, technology, philosophy, and math. Each post goes incredibly in-depth, so much so that you’ll forget the design is pretty standard WordPress. Still, this goes to show that quality content is king. I’d recommend starting with this mind-blowing post about the AI revolution.
As a final note, blogs don’t need to be part of a larger monetization push — they can be a simple way to share your passion. Most popular bloggers get their start this way. So, if you just want to launch a blog to share your favorite pasta recipes with your friends and family, go for it.
4. Entertainment Website
Entertainment websites aim to, well, entertain. Like blogs, the content on these websites takes the form of articles. However, there’s usually a larger team behind these websites to produce content in larger volumes.
Take Reductress, a satirical news website that pokes fun at magazines and media targeted at women. The site’s design itself is modeled after the news outlets it parodies, right down to categorizing posts by topic, and pairs hilarious titles and subtitles with stock thumbnails to encourage clicks
You might have also heard of Pitchfork, a music review site with a cohesive, elegant frontend design, a sharp color scheme throughout, and clear navigation for everything the publication offers, including reviews, news, and its music festival.
Entertainment websites monetize primarily with display ads, sponsored content, and affiliate links, though they may also sell merchandise through an online store to supplement these forms of income.
5. News Website
News websites are like entertainment sites, but mostly comprise news reports. As such, these sites aim to inform more than entertain. News websites also tend to have a notably different aesthetic than entertainment websites, often with a cleaner layout and aesthetic. Take The New York Times — it makes heavy use of a grid layout to present the latest stories and typography to mimic its printed counterpart.
In place of on-page advertising, many news sites offer a subscription for access to their content. The New York Times limits the number of free articles users can view before they must purchase a subscription. Other online news publications place part of their articles behind a paywall, or limit the number of free daily articles.
6. Nonprofit/Organization Website
Websites are one of the best ways to establish legitimacy for a business, and the same can be said for nonprofit organizations and non-corporate entities. These types of websites serve to promote an organization, communicate the organization’s purpose, and often request and field donations.
Just because your site isn’t selling a product service, that doesn’t merit a shoddy design. To be effective, a nonprofit’s website must clearly convey its mission and goals from the homepage with emotional weight, with additional pages going more in-depth on individual projects and initiatives. Your site may also list organizations you’ve collaborated with, testimonials from those you’ve served, a calendar of future events, and a donation CTA to capture new contributors while they’re engaged.
Nonprofits can employ different design approaches too. Color of Change meets you with a fullscreen background image and clear CTAs on the first page load. Visitors can scroll to learn more, but this design choice makes a strong first impression for new visitors and potential donors.
Another American nonprofit, the Southern Poverty Law Center, approaches its homepage design like a news publication might, with image tiles corresponding to stories and updates. It also prioritizes a CTA encouraging visitors to subscribe to its newsletter.
7. Membership Website
Membership websites require visitors to register an account to take full advantage of what the site has to offer. These sites range from educational resources to web apps to news and entertainment publications. In all of these, some or all valuable content is protected and only available to “members” of the website and, in many cases, requires payment to access.
How exactly a membership site’s content and services are gated varies widely — some websites reserve all content for members, while other websites make some items free and others exclusive. Membership websites may accept one-time payments for access, be subscription-based, or require no payment at all, just a sign-up. Blogs, entertainment sites, and news sites have been shifting to this model to generate revenue.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is one example of an effective membership site — the service finds inexpensive round-trip flights from the United States to popular travel destinations and sends an email alert when it finds a deal for you. Users must create an account to use a service. Then, they can enjoy its free offerings or upgrade to a premium membership for access to more offers.
Online portfolios are a great way for creative freelancers and agencies to present their work. Whether you specialize in painting, illustration, film, photography, graphic design, sculpture, prose, or poetry, you can craft a portfolio website that showcases your creative best.
Portfolios are also an option for professionals outside the arts — for instance, programmers can build portfolios for their coding projects, and marketers can use portfolios to recount their most effective campaigns.
There are thousands of portfolio websites out there to inspire yours. France-based freelance designer Julie Guzal’s is just one example. The minimalist, broken grid layout places focus on her body of work, with several small design quirks to make it memorable. There’s also a prominent (but not distracting) contact button near the bottom to get in touch.
Musician websites are another great reference for innovative design. The band Japanese Breakfast updated its site’s visuals to accompany an upcoming album release. Again, we see a prominent CTA on the homepage, with subtle links to view their music, tour dates, and more.
Since creative professionals and agencies utilize portfolios to land work with clients, these sites lean more formal in their presentation. For a more casual approach, you might consider a personal website, which we’ll cover next.
9. Personal Website
As you can probably guess, a personal website is all about you. Use it as a medium to express yourself and your thoughts through writing, projects, visuals, or media, as long as it reflects your unique perspective.
The goal of your personal site is also up to you — if you want to use a personal site to advance your career, you could post your resume detailing your work experience and consider adding a bit more visual flair than a plain PDF file. If you’re an entrepreneur, a personal website establishes your personal brand. Or, you might just need an online space to vent your ideas — doing so has never been easier.
As one example, the personal site of front-end developer and designer Fatima Burke exemplifies a more professional take on the personal site, listing skills, clients, projects, and products.
Forums are online spaces for people to discuss things that interest them. They consist of message boards for different topics and moderators to ensure things stay civil. If a visitor wants to participate in your forum, they’ll register with an account first — membership can be free, or you can charge for it.
While forum websites certainly exist on their own, they’re also valuable as an extension of an existing site. For example, an educational website may include a forum where students can chat about courses and answer each others’ questions. Language learning app Duolingo does this, with a section for each of its languages as well as other topics like educators, troubleshooting, and general discussion.
SaaS companies also often leverage forums as a support resource. Products with strong developer communities are invaluable in lowering the learning curve of a product — as are knowledge bases, our final website type.
11. Knowledge Base
If you run a business, you can bet that your customers will have questions. To get out ahead, you can create a knowledge base, a website that contains documentation and answers to common questions about your product or service.
Knowledge bases sort their support resources into hierarchies, making them easier to navigate and find what users need. Knowledge bases are typically also searchable — the fewer obstacles between you and your desired resource, the better. Plus, you can analyze your visitors’ search queries and reshape your product to better address needs. This all works to decrease the number of support requests and makes for a frictionless experience.
Again, we can look to HubSpot for a model of what a knowledge base can be. The HubSpot knowledge base provides answers to product-related questions and guides for every feature. Easily searchable, our knowledge base lets you filter queries by resource and see your location on the site with breadcrumbs.
What’s your website?
Now that we’ve reviewed the kinds of websites that are out there, you hopefully have a better idea of where your future site falls and what conventions you can adopt. Narrowing things down a bit and finding your niche narrows your options, helping make the design process much less intimidating and time-consuming.
It’s also good to know that your design doesn’t have to reinvent the scroll wheel to make an impact — reference the above examples as a jumping-off point, and check out our Website Inspiration Lookbook for even more case studies in web design.
Originally published May 27, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated April 19 2022