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What are the different types of websites?

1.25 billion. That’s not the number of planets in the galaxy, or the number of grains of sand on a beach.

It’s the number of websites currently in existence, and this number is rising at an alarming speed.

Ask the question ‘what are the different types of websites?’ to any individual and you will get a completely different response. That’s because websites can be categorised in terms of functionality, design and content.

This article will talk you through all three.


What's on this page?


Functionality

examples of a brochure and portal website

Websites can be categorised in terms of the functions they can perform. It can be tempting to think that the websites with the most sleek visual designs are the most complex in terms of functionality, but the opposite can often be true. Take Amazon, for example. We can all agree that Amazon is not the most beautiful website, but it is built to perform a huge range of functions.

In terms of functionality, there are five main types of websites:

  1. Brochure
  2. eCommerce
  3. Portal
  4. Wiki
  5. Social media

1. Brochure

A brochure website is the simplest type of website in terms of functionality. Brochure websites typically only have a few pages, and will be used by small businesses that need a simple online presence. For example, a small plumbing company would only need a brochure website with a homepage displaying contact information, an ‘about us’ page and perhaps a couple of photos of their work. Their website is like an online business card for potential customers.

▶ Find out more: How much does a website cost?

2. eCommerce

An ecommerce website is a website through which users are able to pay for a product or service online. This will normally involve one company selling to multiple users, but can also take the form of a multi-vendor ecommerce website, commonly known as ‘marketplace’ websites. Marketplace websites allow multiple vendors to sell to customers through the same site. Well known examples include eBay and Etsy.

3. Portal

A portal website brings together information from lots of different sources on the web. Early examples include Aol and Yahoo, who offer emails, forums, search engines and news all through their homepage. Portals can also be for internal use in a school, university or company, allowing students or employees to access their emails, alerts and files all in one place.

4. Wiki

A wiki website is one which allows people to collaborate online and write content together. The most popular example is Wikipedia itself, which allows anyone to amend, add and assess the content of their articles.

5. Social media

Social media websites are platforms which allow the sharing of images or ideas. They encourage online interaction and sharing. The most popular social media website is Facebook, with a staggering 2.07 billion active users. Other social media sites include YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Design: content

examples of different website designs in terms of content

Ask a web designer about the different types of websites, and their answer will probably be based on how dynamic the content of the page is, and the degree to which it is optimised for all devices. In terms of how often the content of a website needs to be updated, it will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Static/ fixed
  2. Dynamic

1. Static/ fixed

Static, or ‘fixed’, websites are the most simplistic. Their content does not change depending on the user, and is not regularly updated. Static websites are built using simple HTML code, and typically provide information.

2. Dynamic

A dynamic website or web page will display different content each time it is visited. Examples include blogs and eCommerce sites, or generally any site that is updated regularly. Dynamic websites can also be set up to show different content to different users, at different times of the day etc. Dynamic websites make for a more personal and interactive experience for the user, although they can be a little more complex to develop and may load slightly slower than static ones.


Design: responsiveness

an example of a responsive website

And in terms of how optimised the website is for all devices, its design will fall into one of three categories:

  1. Static/ fixed
  2. Fluid/ liquid
  3. Responsive

1. Static/ Fixed

A fixed website is not well-optimised for different sized screens. It is built to be a fixed width of pixels. If you open a website which is static/fixed on a mobile, you will have to zoom in to see what is written on each page. Again, static websites may load slightly faster due to their simplicity. However they are not recommended due to the poor user experience for those on mobiles or tablets. It is believed that over 50% of all searches are now conducted on mobile, so this is an important consideration.

2. Fluid or liquid

A website built with a fluid or liquid design ensures that the site looks the same in terms of proportions no matter what the screen size. Each element of the website, such as the navigation bar, will take up the same relative amount of space on every device.

3. Responsive

A website with a responsive design goes one step further than one which is fluid or liquid. A website with responsive design is one which is completely optimised for mobiles and tablets, to the point where the website will actually look different on each device. It is especially important that your website is responsive if a large proportion of your audience use devices other than a computer to view your site, as it offers the best experience to these users.


Content

images of facebook, netflix, amazon and bbc news websites

When categorising websites by content, the list could literally go on forever. These are some of the most common ‘themes’ for website content to take, although there is potential for overlap between the categories:

  1. Blog
  2. Corporate
  3. Crowdfunding
  4. eCommerce
  5. Educational
  6. Social media
  7. TV or video streaming

1. Blog

A blog is a website or web page that is regularly updated. Typically, a blog will be run by an individual or a small group. It can be on any topic, but will often be written in an informal or conversational style. Professional blogging has increased massively in popularity in recent years.

▶ Find out more: How do bloggers make money?

2. Corporate

Businesses are waking up to the fact that they must have at least a basic website to ensure they appear credible and professional. Businesses may not sell directly through these corporate websites, but they will use the site to provide information about themselves and let people know how they can get in touch.

3. Crowdfunding

In the past, funding a new business venture or project involved seeking large amounts of money from only a few people (think Dragon’s Den). Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from lots of people. It involves creating a pitch video for your project, setting a target and hoping to reach it by your set deadline. Those who believe in what you are working will pledge a small amount of money to be a part of it. Crowdfunding websites are becoming a go-to resource for new start-ups.

4. eCommerce

An ecommerce site may be combined with a blog or a corporate website, but ultimately its aim is to sell a product or service over the internet. A website that is purely corporate with no ecommerce functionality is still indirectly encouraging users to buy a product or service, but the difference is that they are unable to do this through the site itself.

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5. Educational

‘What are the different types of websites?’, ‘How to boil an egg’... chances are that typing these into a search engine will produce a selection of websites that are informative or educational. Their aim is to provide the user with the information they are looking for.

6. News or magazine

News and magazine websites need little explanation. The primary purpose of a news website is to keep its readers up to date on current affairs. The same can be true of an online magazine website, to some extent, although there is much more of a focus on entertainment.

7. Social Media

Social media websites are pretty unique in terms of both functionality and content. Social media sites were created as a place to share thoughts, images and ideas, and are increasingly become the go-to destination for people to read up about things like the news. Their creation has led to the invention of new words and terms, such as ‘fake news’, which Collins Dictionary named as their word of 2017.

8. TV or video streaming

Video streaming sites have soared in popularity in recent years. Netflix and similar sites have revolutionised the way the world watches TV. Catch-up sites such as iPlayer and All 4 are more traditional examples of this popular type of site.


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If you’d just like to learn more about websites, check out our guide to how much a website costs, or to the best small business web design agencies. Or, you can brush up on the 10 best web design trends of 2018.