Many designers will tell you not to ever use templates. But, I think that there are different kinds of templates out there, and that they each have their place in a small business’s web strategy.
- Pre-made, out-of-the-box templates: This is the most common type of website template available today. If you sign up for website hosting, and they offer you templates to use with your account, those are pre-made templates. You can also buy pre-made templates on many websites.
I don’t recommend using pre-made templates for your permanent website – they’re too generic to extend your brand well, and you also have no control over the photos, colors and effects used in the template. Because you can’t change those options, then you can’t customize your template to make it your own, and to make it stand out from your competition.
If you purchase your pre-made template from your hosting company, it will often be controlled by an application in a web browser, so you won’t be able to work on it locally on your computer. These applications can be tricky to use and can limit your formatting options. You also may not have a lot of control over the Search Engine Optimization options for your site.
Sometimes, it also won’t allow you to make local backups of the pages you create either – so if your host has problems, which is unlikely, but can happen, you’ll lose all the work you did on the website. If you do use a premade template, I recommend that you archive your text as Word documents or at least as screen shots.
But, these templates actually do have a place! Writing your website content using a template is a great way to start. Many entrepreneurs struggle with writing their first set of web copy in Word, because they can’t “see” how it will look on their website. They write it, pass it along to a web designer, and then find that it doesn’t look right to them online, so they wind up going through many rounds of copy revisions with their designer. But, this can add up and get expensive. But, if you use a pre-made template to develop your website copy, you’ll be able to quickly make your own revisions and test out how everything looks online with ease.
Also, pre-made templates are useful for businesses who are just starting out and who haven’t had enough experience to pin down their Brand Definition and to develop a Brand Identity for their businesses. If your business is so new that you’re just not ready to commit to a brand, but you’re anxious to get online, a template can get you up and running online without making a big branding push.
This is also the least expensive way to get a website up – so if your business is strapped for cash, this can get you online with a very low budget.
This sort of template will take a bit more work, and they can be more difficult to find. But, they’re well worth searching a bit more for, because you will be able to distinguish yourself a bit more.
This is still not the best way to go because you won’t be able to fully brand your website. But, you’ll at least be able to get closer to your brand by customizing color palettes.
You’ll also run into the problems with how you’re allowed to access your site to work on it and to make backups, and you may also have less control over the Search Engine Optimization customization.
This gives you a clean, unique, well-coded site with some professional service included – but since you’re not presented with a lot of design customization options, the package is much less expensive than a custom website design.
The down side of that is that you don’t have a fully custom web design, and these templates are usually limited in the number and titles of the pages that are included. For example, I provide 4 and 5 page templates. But, if you don’t need a huge website, then it can still work well for you.