My web designer friends are going to hate me for writing this post but I feel the need to explain to the average website owner the many positive aspects of using a template to build your website instead of designing one from scratch. And this isn’t the first time I disparaged web designers who went to art school or railed against free website builders and other free website design options, so here goes….
First, let me clarify the types of templates I’m talking about. I’m not talking about free, low quality templates. I’m talking about high-end premium themes that you purchase for $30 – $80 from sites like Template Monster or Theme Forest and then heavily customize. Some people are concerned that using a template theme means that your website will look the same as a thousand other websites or that it’s somehow not as good as a custom site. While we have no problem designing a custom website, we just feel that the extra hundreds or thousands of dollars that go into a custom design would be better spent on marketing that same website after it’s built. So while we’re happy to accommodate our client’s needs either way, once we make the case for using a premium template theme instead of a custom design our clients agree 9 and a half times out of 10.
So let’s look more closely at the pros and cons of a custom website vs a premium template so you can decide.
PROS OF A CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE
- Site is 100% visually unique
- One to three custom comp designs to choose from based on your input
- Exact look and feel you want
PROS OF A PREMIUM TEMPLATE DESIGNED WEBSITE
- Site is 50% visually unique but loaded with features like being mobile ready
- Cost vs a custom designed website is $1,500+ less
- Unlimited template design choices to choose from so owner can visualize the look and feel they want in advance
- Additional functionality (like blogging, social media sharing, anti-spam) built in
- Takes 1 to 3 weeks or more off the timeline
BEFORE AND AFTER
But judge for yourself whether you can live with a customized design vs a 100% unique design. Here are some recent websites we built from templates, all happen to be on WordPress although they don’t have to be.
Notice how we are completely able to change all text and images. We can also change all colors. But we don’t have to code the navigation or the page structure or any of the main features of the site like the photo gallery which comes ready to roll right out of the box with up to three different layouts — 2 images on a page, 1 image on a page or three images on a page. We also have the ability to change fonts, font colors, backgrounds and the navigation buttons as well as dictate where the blog feed displays, which, as you can see in this example, we brought out directly on the home page right under the big image slider. This was not shown on the original template design but we are able to customize the code for that capability into the template.
Turning this surfing-themed template into a Super Bowl site relied heavily on using great new graphics to give it an entirely different feel. Notice how we completely redid the navigation and the header area yet we used a lot of the boxes and other components to bring out important content on the home page. We also turned the Popular News area on the sidebar into a sponsorship logo area.
This site uses a versatile structure that helped us turn a personal fitness theme into a positive psychology coaching site. We totally changed the colors, fonts, navigation and look and feel to make this site hardly resemble it’s original template beginnings.
WHY CAN’T I JUST DO IT MYSELF — WHY DO I NEED TO HIRE YOU?
Well, those who are familiar with this blog know we’ve had similar discussions like that here before. Yes, technically you can do all of this yourself. But when we say customized templates we mean some pretty heavy duty customization that requires coding and a deep familiarity with WordPress (in the above examples) as well as PHP programming and mastery of CSS. In fact, a LOT of CSS. If you don’t know what CSS is or does, well, that’s kind of your answer right there.
Now a happy medium to a 100% custom design vs a premium template design is to take a WordPress engine and put a custom theme over it which is kind of the best of both worlds (and another reason why we LOVE the versatility of WordPress). But again, we charge $1,500 for two comp designs with the final version being installed on a WordPress engine, so you just have to prioritize how important it is to have a design that no one else in the world has or one that shares some traits with other sites? Our feeling is: take that extra $1,500 or more and implement a full online marketing campaign to drive traffic and increase sales. That’s a business decision you’ll have to make on your own. I hope this helped you make it.