Should You Purchase a Web Site Template or Hire a Web Designer
Looking for an appropriate Web Template to use for your business or hobby site is not an easy thing to do. Most of the templates you find (especially the free or low cost templates) are going to be stale, look unprofessional, or have already been cloned all over the web. If you decide to go with something pricier, there is a better chance of getting something that will be decent but then you really need to do your homework to make sure it was worth the money. Also, if you are going to spend a pocket full of dollars on a better template, then should you go with a web designer instead?
When you are looking for a good web site template, you need to first keep in mind the things that make any web site good and then look at the specific limitations of a template and see how they will effect you and your site. We’ll look at both.
1. Is the site coded to current standards?
The web is always changing and you want your new website to be web browser compliant to reduce the errors people will encounter when viewing your pages. If the site is going to be very small and simple, you can probably get away with a static HTML template. If you are going to actually be using and updating your site regularly and it is more than a single page then you want the template to be coded using CSS.
Why use CSS? CSS is about separating the design from your content. This becomes especially important when using a template, because once you start using it you don’t want to be concerned with the look anymore. You want to concentrate on the content of your site. By using CSS you can keep the look of everything consistent from page to page. Without it, you risk everything looking very uncoordinated and unprofessional. Using CSS will also make the coding on the pages generally more efficient increasing the speed that your pages load.
2. Are there good navigation tools?
People are going to need to get around your site. Exactly how they do this has a lot to do with the purpose of your site and you need to consider what these requirements are going to be before choosing a template. Is your site content based chronologically (Like blogs often are)? You’ll want a simple interface that is date based. Is your site full of content that might not be easily interconnected? You may need a thorough menu based system or at the least a search box on the page.
3. Is the look of the template clean?
When the web first started it was all about fitting as much on a page as possible. Turns out, that without at least a bit of white space sites turn into jumbled messes. Make sure the template allows you to add your content and still leaves room for that content to breath a little.
4. Does the template fit your purpose?
There are lots of reasons people need sites, and different reasons lend them selves to different styles of design. If your site is informational you want the design to focus the readers view on that information. If you are selling a product you may want the initial view to fall on a picture of the product or maybe on the testimonials or your logo. Whatever it is, make sure the template is bringing the eyes where they need to go. This isn’t just about your content either, if you are planning on ad based revenue, you need to make sure the template leaves space for your ads so they aren’t being stuffed in awkwardly at the end breaking the look of your page.
5. Does the template fit your audience?
Put a lot of thought into the capabilities of your target audience and how they are accessing your site. If the audience is on faster connections (younger/tech savvy group) than you might be able to get away with something more image based, but if they are coming to your site off slower connections you want something more static and text based. Also keep in mind that some templates will be better for static content and others for more dynamic content. You don’t want ever changing content to leave giant gaps on your page or longer content to over run the pages.
6. Make sure the template is search engine friendly.
Most people rely on search engines to bring in a large chunk of their sites traffic. If you are using a template, you want to make sure it doesn’t bring in a lot of flash or a splash page since both can damage search engine ranking. Also make sure it is easy to ad tags to the template for different content areas. Even though tags and meta data supposedly don’t directly effect rankings any more, it can effect the text that shows up in the search engines and you want this to be effective to draw others in. Also, make sure the template is accessible to people of different ages and abilities.
7. Make sure it isn’t being used everywhere.
If you tweak the template a bit to ad some creativity this won’t be as much of an issue, but look around (especially at sites on similar subjects to your own) and make sure you are not seeing this template being used elsewhere. Just because you are using a template, doesn’t mean you want to look like a cookie cut-out of every other site around you, especially other sites you are competing with.
Only you can decide if your new site needs to be template based or if you should take the time and money to have it professionally designed. Generally speaking, your use of a template should be inversely proportionate to the importance of the site to your business. If your whole business is about the design and the site don’t be penny wise and pound foolish hire someone to do the job right.
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