Is it wrong to base your small business website on a template?
We are often asked about the pros and cons of using web templates. These are essentially pre-made websites with a variety of page layouts already configured. All these website templates are missing is the specific business content and imagery that represent your brand. The short answer is that we often do recommend the strategic use of templates, for the following reasons:
- A writer will tell you there are only 7 basic plots that all stories emerge from. Website layouts are similar. There are a finite number of layouts a website and web page can have. The primary elements, navigation, images, text, widgets, can only be arranged in a small variety of effective layouts. Even if we were to design from scratch, I guarantee you that our final layout would be similar to some templated layout available somewhere.
- Templates can be completely customized in both design and function. Templates are the skeleton upon which design is built. It’s here that your web agency should inject their secret sauce to accurately represent your business brand.
- Starting with a template for your small business website is less expensive and more efficient. Since the client has signed off on the general site structure and page layout based on the template, this makes the whole process more efficient and decreases development time and cost.
How to fail using a small business template:
- Using a template straight from the “box” is probably not a good idea. It’s pre-made, like McDonald’s french fries, it’s not original or unique. Other companies, even your direct competition, may be using the exact same template and images.
- Choosing a template that looks cool, but won’t work for your audience. Your target clients have specific goals, whether it’s to learn information, purchase a product, download a file, fill out a form, etc. There are best-practices related to all of these user goals. The chances are that your “cool” template will not be optimal for your specific clients. A web agency should be able to customize the usability of the template based on their knowledge of best-practices for your small business type.
- Companies that push website templates are often offshore development farms and won’t put any time into understanding your brand and customers. These are the companies that entice small business owners with low-cost $499 – $2,999 websites. Unfortunately many small businesses fall into this trap and then wonder 6 months later why they are not getting any sales or conversions from their bargain-store website.
Maintenance for website templates.
If you do end up using a template, there is a 100% certainty that it will need to be maintained. Modern web template frameworks are composed of many plug-ins and widgets that have the potential to be hacked if they are not kept up to date. Your web agency should offer to maintain these for you or teach you how to maintain the website via the Admin dashboard.
The bottom line.
Templates are not intrinsically bad, but people may choose them for the wrong reasons and also not know how to customize them to their brand. If you are considering the use of a template for your small business and have questions, please give us a call at Executionists 310-754-3807.