By Joe Jones - Meet the Team
There's no denying that here in the digital age and the mobile millennium, every business needs a website. Your website is the face of your company's online presence, it is the home base of all your digital marketing landing pages, the conveyor of over 50% of your SEO, and it is the platform on which you will build a great industry blog. Naturally, you want your website design to appeal directly to your target audience, subtly increase desire for your product, make visitors feel welcome, and guide each lead to a successful and satisfied conversion.
Of course, there are a lot of different ways to make a business website. If you're a tech company, there is a chance that you already have skilled in-house developers who have also already hand-crafted a custom website that perfectly suits your business. For everyone else, you can either buy a website template for a fill-in-the-blanks format, or work with an independent web developer who can make a custom website from scratch.
Just looking at time and budget, businesses are going to choose the template website every time. It's quick, it's cheap, and everyone says it's incredibly easy to 'whip up' a website. And if you needed a site to display your 4th grader's science fair project or a personal journal blog, that would be fine. But how many websites have you seen that are exactly the same? Did any of them wow you or make you think that the business in question was special or did your eyes just glaze over the logo because it didn't seem to matter?
Unfortunately, this is the effect of template websites. You have a lot of things you need from a website, and basic functionality is only the beginning, not the end of your website's potential. Today we'd like to help businesses clearly see all the ways a template website is holding you back, even if it appeared to work for you initially.
Template websites are easy because there is no design involved. You don't have to figure out which shapes and feature layouts will work best for your target audience because there are only a few options to start with. Each template has a structure, a sitemap, and a style. While choosing from dozens of themes may feel like options, each theme is just another rendition of the same molded structure.
Building a template website is like filling in a colouring book. You may be able to choose the colours and add a few details, but the picture will always be the same.
Template websites are wildly popular because they are easy to set up. While the popularity speaks highly for their function in business, the door swings both ways on this one. It also means that there are not just thousands, but millions of websites out there using the same template platforms and choosing from the same theme list. Even if you choose a template theme that seems trendy and unique, it is statistically likely that there are least a few thousand other businesses, some of which are distinctly shady, that are using that exact same theme, making your website seem generic or worse, untrustworthy.
While it's true that starting from a template will get you from zero to 'working home page' quickly and cheaply, that low price is a false economy for many businesses. After the initial setup, it's easy to find yourself paying developers over and over again for custom themes and additional features to create a website produces the interest and traffic you were hoping for. In the end, a custom website is usually more economical because you’re able to work with a web developer throughout the entire process to get everything you want upfront and in perfect reflection of your brand.
Optimizing your online presence today is all about the ability to adapt your website to the latest trends and the best design for your brand, product, and audience. But one of the things that makes a template easy is the limited feature set. There are only so many things a template website can do and there are even some features you will not be permitted to turn off with the admin tools. While template platforms do eventually update, this can often put you years behind the cutting-edge sites in your industry.
Template website platforms make their business by selling cheap, easy websites which simply require a basic set of features that look nice and seemingly function well. Nowhere in this mandate is there a high demand for cybersecurity. In fact, many template providers assume that anyone who needs real security will hire a developer to design a secure website for them. Instead, template websites tend to have a minimal number of users, admin logins and accounts and they are not prepared for encryption or even much in the way of database security. In other words, template websites tend to be easy to hack.
Even if you're certain a template website is right for you, it will be important to read many reviews before choosing one. Badly coded templates are surprisingly common because the template coders have no investment in the end users. Template website coding does not always follow web development best practices and the platforms usually offer little to no support in fixing any problems that do occur.
One of the things that makes template websites seem so appealing is the wide selection of custom themes available for each platform. There are themes that are better for specific industries, themes that fit different brand moods, and themes that even add or remove available features. However, usually the most unique themes are developed by third-party platform users, and their coding ability should also be held in question. Not all themes, even the ones you really like, are actually functional and some can even include critical coding or security holes that you would have no ability to detect.
Optimizing your website design (ie: SEO: making your website more relevant so it ranks higher in search engines) is all about responding to your audience. Every business has a target audience that will belong to specific demographics and have certain preferences in how they would like to view your brand. If you have the ability to customize a website, you might naturally adapt your layout, design, and page navigation to better suit your audience. However, with a template, you may be limited in making changes to key areas that can impact how your brand is presented, such as colour, content, and site structure.
SEO is one of those things that has to be considered on every level of your digital presence, but with the best tactics for SEO having changed over the last decade so many times, it's become challenging to keep up. Even the backend of your website can contribute to or detract from your SEO, therefore it's important to keep this as up-to-date as your content. Most website templates do not update frequently enough to stay current and older templates might even be configured dangerously for a tactic that has since been banned or penalized, such as hidden keywords or excessive back-linking.
Human pattern recognition is already causing online consumers to immediately notice when they are navigating through a familiar template. Rather than making your mark, the template begins to erode your brand recognition as you fade into the mass of other template websites.
Building a website from a template is a great way to get started on no budget and no time, as it can help you become familiar with the basic parts of a website. However, a template is no substitute for a custom-made website built to suit your exact target audience and business needs. If you want cutting-edge design, first-class cybersecurity and the ability to optimize everything from framework to page load speed, then it's time to start considering your web development options.
Contact us to learn more and setup a free consulation with one of our team members.