The number of website templates available has boomed in the last few years. Thousands of templates are available from HTML page websites to any content management systems (CMS) like WordPress. But if you do not know how to code, or don’t want to, then the only choice is selecting a template for a CMS platform. Our favorite is WordPress but there are other choices like Drupal, Joomla. There are also services like Squarespace and Wix that bundles web hosting services with their platform, but with these services you are limited functionalities that their platforms offer.
But this post is not about CMS platforms and functionality, it’s about how using a good looking website template does not guarantee that your website will look just as good after swapping out photos and flowing in your own text. Website template designers and developers have access to high quality stock photography and the experience and skills for photo editing to make their templates look stunning. They also don’t have to worry about making the text in their templates make sense, only that they look good as placeholder text.
In this post, we will simulate a startup business owner with limited capital, experience, and time to build a website using a template. We are opening a restaurant/bar with our companion blind date app. Users can find matches and setup a reservation at our restaurant to enjoy dinner or drinks for their blind date offering discounts to entice them to use the app and make a reservation.
We need to spend as little as possible so we’ll do it ourselves and time is money so as quickly as possible. We decide to spend a bit more to purchase a premium WordPress theme and layout plugin combo with templates for $199 to ensure it was properly coded with access to support and updates for a year. To save more money, we’ll search for and use license free for commercial use photos. We don’t have much free time so we’ll find photos of the same subject to replace the template’s photos and limit ourselves to 3-5 minutes of searching for each image. We’ll also use a free open source photo editing software to make photos edits ourselves and mimic a user with minimal skills and experience also limiting ourselves to 3-5 minutes on each photo. And to save as much as possible, we’ll use a free logo creation website service for our new business’s logo.
Next we’ll take the same template but use our professional resources and skills to fullest extent of our capabilities but within a small budget. We will spend more time and think about the entire website to create a professional version of the website. This includes higher quality stock photography and editing using Photoshop with all capabilities. But for the logo, to stay within the small budget, we agree to make some tweaks to the free logo the business owner created.
In the gallery below we have the original template we purchased followed by the simulated owner’s work and lastly the professional’s work.
Do-It-Yourself (Owner’s) Execution
Sticking to the limitations we set ourselves to emulate a business owner, we found free images and made as few editing as possible. We got lucky with most of the images that needed to be clipped by finding images already clipped. But that narrowed our choices in the imagery but comparing the time saved with learning to use software we are unfamiliar with, it was the better option. The photo choices also appears off to the service the company is providing, a restaurant and dating app. Most of the photos focus only on the food and preparation of it with little to nothing about the dating aspect.
All of the text colors and styling of the template were left as-is to save time. This resulted in a color scheme with a red logo, gold-orange text, and shades of black background colors. So the color scheme for the website is inconsistent with the branding of the logo we wanted. Then there is unbalance of the website’s typography and the logo, the style is the same but the weight if off and doesn’t match properly.
Having more time and access to professional stock photography, software, experience, and skills the professional version of the template is more cohesive. Starting with the photos, there is a mix of both restaurant and dating subjects to show both sides of the company’s services. The food photos selected are better clipped and the subtle shadow added helps retain the template’s original feature. And as another show of professional touch the shot glasses were made translucent so there aren’t stark white when they are placed on the dark background.
All of the text colors and styling were changed to better match the logo. Heavier weight for the header and a contrasting slab serif for the body text. The color of the header matches the logo as well and all of the background colors were changed to create a more cohesive color scheme.
The most different approach is the elimination of the “Reviews” section. Fake reviews or reviews that never change is more detrimental to the brand image over time. So we decided to remove this section to help the brand look more honest. But because this is a WordPress website, this section can always be added back in but with a dynamic review system so these won’t be the same reviews every time a visitor loads the page.
Although we always prefer a develop a custom website design for our client’s businesses, we know that it is not always financially feasible. Website templates are good tools for startups, they provide low cost alternative to a custom design and is a good starting point. But don’t make the mistake in thinking that a website template is a one stop solution. To turn a website template into your website takes time and effort to ensure that it represents your company, not another sample for the website template’s designer and developer.
Consider reaching out to professionals who are comfortable with working with website templates. The expertise professionals have can make a world of a difference to take a rushed website built from a template into a website that is truly yours.