Are you considering a website template for your business website? Or perhaps you are hiring a designer to customize one or even to custom design an entire website for you. To reduce the possibility of ending up with something un-usable, then I hope that the following tips will help highlight some common web design mistakes, even when you end up hiring the local web design guy or company, and why you should usually avoid the web templates that are available unless you plan on customizing or editing them yourself.
Let the Content Determine the Layout
In an age of cheap web templates, website builders and instant web designs, is a time of great confusion and middle-of-the-road websites. By this statement, I mean that in many cases the template’s layout restricts or pre-determines what content or information you will be able to place on any particular page. In addition, many web templates will have certain features that might not otherwise have been implemented, and so exist superfluous to the rest of the web design or get used regardless resulting in frequent redundant or duplicate components. This approach usually leads to an un-natural or erratic and confused navigation method.
Many business owners, especially the community and local businesses find themselves out of their depth when seeking a web designer that will produce quality work for them. A designer will present an idea fairly quickly of an all-in-one or CMS (Content Management System) solution that is powerful and flexible with all the bells and whistles. This approach is usually taken by a designer that is putting their need to produce something ahead of the need to create something right for the business’ needs. A web designer should always be able to site down and talk with a client, understand their business and their customers – especially if it is a local business, and be able to develop and create something that benefits the business and will not end up requiring constant fixing, tweaking, updating or re-designing in a few months time.
What to Look for or to Ask a Designer
The first thing you should likely ask yourself, and then the prospective designer, is what the aim or goal of the website is. That is, do you need it to attract readers for articles, or perhaps to introduce your brand to a new audience before eventually being able to convert a portion in to new sales, or is it a publishing or informational resource primarily ie. Keeping existing clients/customers up to date with product updates or events etc.
The purpose of the website will therefore greatly influence the development approach of a web designer or developer. Having a slick looking portfolio seems good – however a designer’s work should also clearly show their ability to adapt the very design concepts and user experience to each relevant market or business model.
So Why are Website Templates a Bad Choice?
In some case they are the perfect choice, but they are not right for everyone. If content or value-added interactivity is what is important, a template will nearly always be the wrong choice – since their very purpose is to restrict layout and branding options or uniqueness so that you at least get some sort of styled page that can be used quickly.
For most trading businesses therefore that rely heavily on any sort of branding, identity or trademarks etc – A template design will nearly always serve to damage it. The relatively small cost of a custom development will nearly always produce a far greater ROI, especially if you consider that once you buy your $100 – $500 template, you will need to hire someone to customize it with your imagery, logo, content and exact pages/sections – quite easily costing a further $200-$300. A custom web design can often start from as low as $800 (of course it would be much higher for websites that require database storage, backend programming, dynamic content etc), but remains relatively cheap in comparison to traditional business assets and costs.
In addition to this, as part of a professional design service, a design company is able to ensure that the website is created using code standards, and an optimized content layout that will help your website’s search results performance (SEO) over time.
Tom Halpin is a web development and hosting professional and works with New York based web solutions firm Perigee Global, a provider of Custom Web Design services and hosted solutions for business.