When creating a Word document, Powerpoint, or using most other common design programs, one of the key features is the templates offered to save time in the design process, to focus on the actual content of the project.
This is great for the average business user that doesn’t have a lot of time to be spending on the look and feel or possibly has no desire or ability to make their own design.
In the internet world, rather than Applications such as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, there are what is called “Content Management Systems.” Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, the list goes on. These pre-built packages offer great flexibility and speed up the web design process immensely, and are a great tool when used properly. The problem lies with the thousands of templates that are available, that make building a site take less than an hour, with very little to no actual design involved.
If you have no web design ability but want a blog, you could create an account at WordPress.com, choose one of the great looking templates available, and start writing. No time has been spent on the design of your site, and you get right down to business. Now imagine if you hire a web developer, pay a large sum of money, then find out they followed the same path. You end up with a basic template site that possibly looks like many other sites on the internet. Imagine a client calling you up and telling you your site looks exactly like another site they found online.
This is not hypothetical; this actually happened to a new client of ours. I can think its about like if you hire a photographer for your wedding, charging a similar amount as the going professional rate, then they show up with their cell phone to take your pictures.
If you want a website that really creates a brand image for your business, this generally means tailoring the design elements around your logo, chosen color scheme and other desired elements. Most likely a web designer who chooses a pre-made template doesn’t know or care about actually marketing your business online.
They may not have the experience required to customize your site as well, if you want contact forms, image galleries, etc. Of course, there are many plug-ins for said Content Management Systems that will allow any number of add-ons to your site, but often they require special rules or customizations to work properly, something only an advanced web developer can fix.
Signs a web site may be a template:
The site has a very basic look, but at the same time buttons and links that aren’t necessary. Things look out of place, such as the logo and the color scheme of the site.
A footer message with a link to a theme site. This does 2 things: it cheapens the site and gives a link going to another unknown and unrelated site, good for them but bad for you and the search engine optimization of your site.
Next time you are in the market for a web designer, ask them if they use templates, and look closely at their portfolio.