The word “template” triggers an image of clones and replicas that look and feel the same. Website templates are omnipresent on the market that makes you wonder - does this stigma hold true today?
First, let’s elaborate on what website templates really are.
Website templates are, at their core, pre-made websites with various page layouts, design features and functionalities which are pre-configured for almost immediate use. And what they all have in common is that they are content ready - you just need to copy/paste your own content and branding elements and – voila! Your website is ready to act as your online presentation and conversion point. Web designers today would recommend using templates as a cost-effective solution for both ends but before we make a final cut on this, we should run through a list of pros and cons.
A professional writer, when asked, will tell you that there are only 7 basic plots all good stories emerge from. It’s similar with website templates. No matter how hard you try to innovate, there will always be a finite number of layouts and elements a single website can have. When we breakdown a webpage layout, you will see that each of them consists out of basic elements – header, navigation, footer, sidebar with widgets and main content section consisting of imagery and text. Even if a layout was to be designed from scratch, you will notice that the final outcome of a layout would be much similar to many other found across the web.
Keep in mind that even though templated, they can still be fully customized in both design and features. They are basically a skeleton, a framework to build on. And this is where your expertise and investment as a web agency can make it rise above the sea of similar websites. It’s your approach, your unique value proposition and style that differentiates it from the others. A good product/service sells on its own.
Another benefit of using a website template for your small business is that it is less expensive and can give you a bigger bang for your buck. Many templates come pre-packed with plugins which have been tested for compliance so this will give you a number of functionalities with no concerns of code conflicts.
Well, for starters, it’s pre-made. You can look at it as McDonald’s French fries - it isn’t original or unique. And it’s highly available on the market. You wouldn’t run into it in your research if hasn’t been downloaded, tested or discussed across the web. When researching for templates, your search would most definitely start with “[business type] website templates”. Next on, you would compare ratings, downloads, price and comments. And just why do you think other companies or your direct competitors won’t do the same? They might even copy your content and use default demo images packed with the template bundle.
Another problem you might run into is that you decide on a template that looks cool but doesn’t really resonate with your target audience. Your target audience has specific needs, goals and limitations. Whether it is a file download, a subscription/purchase or as simple as learning new information, your website design and content needs to reflect it and have it accessible. There are different best practices for achieving any of these goals and chances are that your “cool looking template” isn’t optimized for it.
Many companies that push web templates in a package deal at low costs won’t waste their time in research of your brand and customers. You can expect them to buy a template and slap a logo and branding elements on a demo template and “have your website ready in 5 business days”. This is often the case and a serious trap that most small businesses fall into. Most of these scenarios end up with you wondering “why aren’t we making any sales after 6 months already” just to find out they haven’t even made some basic onsite technical search engine optimization.
This is why when deciding for a website template you should always consult a web design agency or an expert from the niche - they can provide web design services that will adapt the template of choice and customize its usability to comply with the users’ needs and your business goals.The bottom line
Using website templates for your small business website is not a bad decision but the choice of a web design agency that designs, launches and maintains it is crucial. Many large websites today are based on CMS templates but the way they incorporated their branding, composed navigation and implemented functionalities that reflect the customers’ journey is what made them stand out from the crowd. In the end, there are only seven plots that all stories emerge from.