When it comes to the goal or purpose of a website, there is no one size fits all. We’ll share 3 main purposes of a website but then we’ll dive into how these shift depending on the type of website you are designing for. Let’s dive into the main purposes of a website and how you can focus on one for your next website.
Generally, we can categorize the purpose of most websites into 3 sections: Awareness, sales, and information.
What do we mean by awareness? Maybe you’re creating a website for a new brand and you want to share long-form written content in the form of a blog. By writing and sharing blog posts, you are creating awareness on a particular topic. If you are launching a new product or service, you want to create content on the Internet that generates awareness, how can you get people to find you online?
One of the most common purposes of a website is to generate traffic and sales. This is usually most suited for a business website that’s selling a product or service. There are many ways to go about generating traffic in hopes of bringing in sales for your business, such as creating funnels with specific landing pages, email option magnets, and nurturing through an email series. But creating informational content on your industry will help bring in and attract the right type of customer.
Another purpose for a website is simply to share information. Think about Wikipedia, a dictionary or thesaurus, or a news site. Each one of these website types shares an abundance of information on an ongoing basis. You keep coming back to them when searching for a query online. This could also be a curated blog. For example, there are many design blogs out there (including yours truly, Flux) that create content within a genre to help a specific audience, in this case, designers.
We discussed three general purposes or goals for a website but now we need to understand that there are different types of websites and how these goals will vary greatly across website categories.
A portfolio or personal website will most likely have the purpose of awareness. You want to share with the world what you do (this is the visual portfolio portion) and how you can help (this is why you want to generate awareness). The goal of a design portfolio website might be to get hired as a designer at a company or for clients to reach out to you for website design, for example. In this case, the purpose of your website is to generate awareness and lead to the action of people reaching out to contact you.
Business websites are dedicated websites where a business can share what they offer, awards and accolades, past examples of work, customer testimonials, dive into specifics on their services and offerings, and just about anything that helps tell the story of what the business does and how it helps people.
The purpose of these website types is awareness as well as sales and conversions. If a business wants to grow its customer base, the best way to do so is to create a website and generate traffic to it with searchable content or paid ads pointing to landing pages that convert. Most businesses these days have a website, it’s the best way for people around the world to find and work with you, Otherwise, you’re limited to customers located near you geographically.
The main purpose of blog websites is to share information. They may want to generate awareness, traffic, and sales if they have a related business but most of the time it’s a website dedicated to sharing written and visual content on a given niche.
Ecommerce sites might be a little more straightforward with their purpose. An eCommerce website is an online shop where people can buy products, so it makes sense that the purpose of these sites is to generate traffic and sales. 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. They may have a secondary goal of generating awareness on the business or product but the sole purpose is sales.
What about social media websites, where do they fall? These types of websites are a little tougher to categorize, in some ways they span all three purposes. Since a user is creating and sharing content on these sites, each one of those users may have their own purpose for the “micro” site they are creating.
Pinterest, for example, leans toward an informational purpose for its social media site. Essentially, they are a search engine. You can search for a specific topic, maybe “healthy dinner recipes”, and you are met with thousands of pins pointing you to recipes from other blogs and websites. However, businesses can also create pins that drive awareness and traffic to their product in hopes of leading to a sale. So in this sense, social media sites might have multiple purposes of awareness, sales, and information.
As a web designer, you might be wondering if you need to know the purpose of your website before you design it. You could design a website and fill it with content without ever considering the purpose or goal but you would be at a huge disadvantage. Taking the time to think about the purpose of your website, what the main goal is, and how you will measure success will help you create a better website from the start.
When designing a website for a client, this is a question you should ask in the discovery phase, before any design takes place. Knowing the goal for the client’s business website from the start will help you make informed design decisions. For example, if the goal is to drive traffic to a free or low-cost trial of a product, you would need to design a simple landing page experience and test conversion to achieve the best results.
Another important thing to consider, once you’ve narrowed in a website goal, is how will you measure success? For example, if the client’s goal is to increase traffic to their website, get specific with numbers. Maybe you want to aim to increase traffic by 10% within a certain amount of time. How will you increase traffic, by creating searchable content and/or paid advertising? How much time and resources do you want to dedicate to these strategies to achieve the goal and consider it a success?
Here are more examples of how to measure success with specific metrics.
Increase email subscribers:
We’ve discussed the three main types of purposes a website might have and dove into how each of these can be applied to various categories of websites. We also now realize the importance of brainstorming the website purpose and goals from the start, whether it’s discussed with the client or you make the decision yourself (if it’s a personal or portfolio website). Knowing your website goal from the start will help you make informed design decisions; however, it is possible to change the purpose or goal of your website over time.
For example, maybe you’re designing a travel blog website with the sole purpose of sharing information. But maybe after a few years, the blog grows and you develop a business around it. Slowly, your purpose might shift to awareness and sales. This will help in redesigning all or parts of the website or creating new landing pages to meet these new goals.
There’s also no right or wrong answer when choosing a purpose for your website. The important thing is to choose one to get started with, let it help guide you in designing your website, you can always adjust later.
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