My Web Maestro

What’s Wrong With Using a Design Template?

Posted on by Nathan Lyle

If you have a tight budget, it can be tempting to use a template or a website service that is based on templates that allow you to customize some of the template components. It can feel very empowering to sign up, click a few things, copy a few paragraphs into a form, and hit that “publish” button. Especially when it’s just saved you the cost of hiring a professional web designer. So what’s wrong with taking this approach? In actuality, there are times it may be perfectly appropriate. If you’re a small business, it’s almost never the best choice. Here’s why.

Impressions matter. You don’t want to cut sheets of paper into rectangles and write your business cards up by hand, for the obvious reason that it would leave a bad impression of you as a business person. It would also reflect directly on the quality of your product or services. The same applies for envelopes, letterhead, your logo, your office or storefront, and so on. Whatever else your website is doing for you, keep in mind that it’s always creating an impression. Not just the first impression, but a good website will continue to cement your business relationship with your customers over time when they it easy to use and helpful.

Cookie cutter. There are a lot of templates out there… but it’s almost always immediately easy to tell when a website was built on a template. They tend to look generic, cheap, and unprofessional. Even if they are completely functional, it doesn’t put your best foot forward. It’s like using an AOL or Yahoo email address for your business – it ends up looking less professional and advertises for someone else instead of yourself.

Square peg, round hole. Your business is unique, and has unique goals and needs. It can be difficult to squeeze those goals and needs into a template that wasn’t built with you in mind. What usually ends up happening is that you build your site to fit the template, instead of in the shape of what will do you the most good.

Flexibility and change. Most websites need to change over time. After two to three years, many things can change with your business, and your website will need to adapt. Web technology itself keeps changing, and can end up requiring changes and updates to your website in order to remain competitive. If you’ve built your website on someone’s proprietary system, you may find yourself locked into their options, or end up with the headache of having to start from scratch. Or worse, they might go out of business leaving you a bit up the crick without a paddle.

Hiring a professional web designer doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, but it will let you build the website you need. Talk with your web designer about what you want the website to do for you. If the cost seems prohibitive, get some additional quotes. Ask your web designer what the various options might be as there are often ways to slim down the project cost based on your priorities.

To end with a cliché, remember that you just about always get what you pay for.

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About Nathan Lyle

Nathan is a father of four, an amateur musician, and an aspiring photographer. He started programming in 4th grade on an Apple II+ and many years later spent much of his college years freelancing website design for college departments. Nathan is a veteran of the Browser Wars, and will gladly talk at length about the changes he has seen in Web technology if you accidentally ask him.

Visit Nathan's Website or View all posts by Nathan Lyle


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