12 popular website types and how to design them

by
Monica Galvan
12 popular website types and how to design them
There are over 2 billion websites on the Internet. In this article you’ll learn about different types of websites, how to design for them, and which ones make the most sense for you to work on as a freelance web designer.

The Internet is a wide-open space with so many types of websites and content out there to discover. As a web designer, it’s helpful to know what the most popular types of websites are and which ones offer the best opportunities for you to design for clients. You’ll notice how some may be better suited for freelancing than others. Let’s dive into 12 of the most popular types of websites. 

Portfolio website

Probably the first website you will ever create as a designer is your own portfolio website. A portfolio website is used to display and promote examples of someone’s past work. Mostly used by those who work within a creative field, a portfolio site is essentially a visual resume. It demonstrates your skills as a creative and shows your best work in hopes of attracting prospective clients or employers.

Since they’re not too complex in content you can choose to design and develop your own website with Webflow, a tool to help you build custom websites. But there are also many services out there like Squarespace or Wix that make it easy for anyone to create a portfolio website quickly and easily. You pay a monthly or yearly fee to use the website builder tool and keep it hosted on their platform. They can be costly to maintain but they usually offer some level of customer service to help with questions and problems that may arise which makes it worth paying for.

Example of a design portfolio website, by Dann Petty

When it comes to designing for a portfolio website, the sky’s the limit. Each portfolio site should be unique and reflect the designer or creator of the work. But the most important thing to remember is to let the work shine through. Rather than having a complex website design with fancy animations, you want to wow potential clients and employers with your work and guide them to contacting you for your services. So you may want to lean toward a minimal design layout to allow the work to speak for itself and promote a good user experience.

Here are 5 stunning portfolio websites to inspire you while designing your own portfolio website:

Personal website

The goal of a personal website is exactly that, personal. It might not be to sell something or promote work but merely to post and share thoughts. Often times it can feature a blog, maybe it’s a one-page resume with links to other social platforms, or whatever someone wants to share. 

Example of a simple one-page personal website, by Peter McKinnon)

As a web designer, you probably won’t be asked to design too many personal websites unless it’s as a favor to a friend or family member who wants to start and share a project they’re working on. 

However, if you’re new to designing websites, this could be a great way to get some practice in a low-pressure environment. Try practicing designing a simple one-page website that catches a user’s attention and shares the most important information about the individual whom the site is for. It can be a fun challenge as you won’t have as much content to work with.

Blog

A blog is a website that’s regularly updated with articles, also called blog posts. These sites can be run by an individual, a group of people, or even companies. The purpose of a blog is to share information on a specific topic to attract an audience. Every blog is different but most have a goal of lead generation. By posting well-written and researched content, you can rank for specific keyword search terms and generate quality traffic which may lead to new customers. 

Example of a well-known design blog, Smashing Magazine

You’ll notice most blog websites look templatized and that’s on purpose. There needs to be structure to the design of a blog website. On the backend, these websites use a CMS (content management system). With a CMS, you can create, manage, modify, and publish content with a user-friendly interface. This makes it easy for someone to update and add new content to the blog, rather than having to pay for a web developer to make these updates.

When designing a blog website, focus on the structure of the site. Think about how you want to display a series of blog posts. Know that the content will change as new articles are uploaded, but how do you want to show the title, author, article summary, read more button, etc. A good user experience is super important on a blog website so the user can easily find what they are looking for. 

Business websites

Most businesses these days have a website. It’s a dedicated website where a business can share what they offer, awards and accolades, past examples of work, customer testimonials, dive into specifics on services they offer, and just about anything that helps tell the story of what the business does and how it helps people. 

Example of a business website (compass.com)
compass.com

Design and branding are vital to a business website, it’s how they can set themselves apart from the competition. When designing these types of websites, it’s important to gather as much information upfront from the client about their business. Do they have an existing logo, brand colors, tone of voice, style of photography? Or are they a fairly new company that is looking for help in these areas as well?

As a designer, you have the opportunity to not only design a great website presence for your client’s business but maybe even offer logo and branding services that they can use throughout the life of their business.

eCommerce websites

An eCommerce website is an online shop where people can buy products. Some businesses have both physical store locations and shops as well as eCommerce websites to reach a larger customer base. When your customer lives on the internet, you have an infinite amount of potential customers you can reach. 

Example of an eCommerce website (sephora.com)
sephora.com

This is a popular website type for designers to work on. There are always new businesses starting up every single day and they’re looking for designers to help them create a memorable online presence to sell their products. As a web designer, you can choose to specialize in designing certain types of websites or work with certain clients. Choosing to focus on eCommerce websites means you’ll have more opportunities to work with clients and they’re willing to pay well since the purpose is to generate business.

When designing these websites, there are many factors to consider. Think about the brand presence and how to set their product apart from the competition. Organization is key, are there multiple families of products, maybe different flavors or sizes? With so much variety, it’s important to make sure the customer understands what they are buying.

Check out this video on some of the best designed eCommerce websites:

Social media websites

Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are examples of popular social media websites. They are usually created to allow people to share their own thoughts and ideas or simply connect with other people. These sites allow the user to upload words, photos, and videos to personalize their feeds. With automatic refresh and infinite scroll features, these sites tend to keep people coming back for new content often. 

Example of a social media website (Pinterest.com)
(Pinterest.com)

Once created, these types of websites mostly need backend maintenance such as testing and fixing bugs. There may be occasional design updates but the design might not change much visually to the user until there is a significant rebrand. Most social media companies have their own in-house design team that works on design and development but you may have the opportunity to collaborate as a contract designer.

Membership websites

Membership websites use a paywall in order for a user to access the content. Usually, these are paid for on a monthly or yearly basis and are updated regularly with new content to keep the user coming back and happy to renew their membership. 

Example of a membership website (Skillshare.com)
(Skillshare.com)

Since the goal of a membership site is to upload new content often, it’s important for the CMS behind the site to be easy to use. For this reason, companies tend to use services like Kajabi or Teachable to create and maintain their membership sites. Although they make seek out design help, in the beginning, to create a branded presence on the platform. 

Wiki or community forum website

One of the most well-known and visited websites is Wikipedia. Wikis can be created on any subject. A wiki is a website where various users are able to collaborate on content, update, and make their own changes. 

Wikipedia.com
wikipedia.com

Community forum websites provide an organized way to publish discussions on a specific topic. Users can register to start and contribute to existing discussions. Forums tend to help users solve technical issues, a great example of one is the WordPress support forum.

Due to the open-source nature of these websites, the design tends to be non-existent. You’ll notice Wikipedia is not designed well, it’s basically just HTML without much CSS styling. However, if you wanted to create your own community forum you could get creative with the design and collaborate with a developer to make the backend work smoothly. 

Magazine and news media websites

Magazine and news websites are similar to blog websites in structure however, they’re focused on journalism rather than personal interests and opinions. These sites feature articles, photos, and videos that are informative and educational. Over the last few decades, the magazine and news industry has shifted from a print-only experience to a digital format, usually offered through a subscription service. 

Example of a news website (The New York Times)
(The New York Times)

Companies that run these sites, like The New York Times, rarely update the design or work with individual designers. They mostly work with agencies or companies that help with design, development, and maintenance. 

Video streaming websites

Video streaming sites like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many other competitors have surged in popularity over the last decade. Some are free, while others offer paid services. 

Example of a video streaming website (Netflix.com)
(Netflix.com)

Similar to social media websites, once the skeleton of these websites is designed, most of the upkeep is on the tech side. With so much traffic and bandwidth streaming, these websites require a lot of backend maintenance. Streaming companies tend to have their own in-house design and development teams that work on long-term updates.

Web portals

Web portals are often created for internal purposes for a business, organization, school, or institution. They usually involve a login with a personalized experience based on the user. For example, a university might have a web portal allowing students to access information about their courses or a company might use a portal to allow their employees to request time off and view pay stubs. 

Example of a web portal login for Harvard University

Web portals are complex and will usually involve more complicated design and programming than most other websites. For this reason, companies tend to outsource the design, development, and IT maintenance to another company.

Landing pages

A landing page is a one-page website usually created for a marketing campaign that drives visitors to take a specific action. The content and design should be to the point and lead the user to one CTA (call-to-action). 

For example, a company might want to create a landing page as lead generation for their business, offering a free download or access to a video in exchange for an email address. Another example of a landing page might be to educate a user about an app and direct the user to download and use it.

Example of a landing page to download an app (source: Ghulam Rasool on Dribble)
(source: Ghulam Rasool on Dribble)

While there are many services out there that make it easy for businesses to create their own landing pages, it’s still a high in-demand skill. Knowing how to design an effective landing page could be a lucrative skill to have as a designer and you will likely have repeat clients. 

You can also try your hand at designing landing pages for clients on sites like 99designs, Fiverr, or Upwork. It’s a great way to get started with web design, add to your portfolio and resume while getting paid for the experience. 

Learn to create your own websites 

Now that you know more about the most popular types of websites out there, you have a better idea of all the potential web projects you can work on as a designer. To learn more about how to design any one of these types of websites, check out our course The $10k Website Process. You’ll learn about creative strategy, how to wireframe the layout of a website, design the UI, and even how to develop it to charge more money and bring in repeat clients.

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