Website templates are bad for everyone

Published on September 21st, 2009 by admin

Website templates are a conveniant and easy way to build websites. They are also a good way to ruin your reputation and the reputation of your client.

What are website templates?

Website templates are pre-built website systems that designers can use to quickly assemble a website. There are a variety of options, from static html, to complex php frameworks such as Joomla or Drupal.

Templates are undeniably useful, they’re easy to implement and makes websites much cheaper to build. It does come with some disadvantages however, which, in my opinion is enough to avoid using them all together.

They’re bad for clients

They don’t educate clients about the creative process

It’s the designer’s responsibility to educate the client about the creative process, that they are more than just pixel pushers (which a lot of clients first consider them to be). Using web templates gives clients the wrong idea because you don’t talk to them about things like branding, usability, content etc. All of which are instrumental to creating a powerful and useful design. Instead, the work becomes marginalized to simply filling the holes in the design with text and images.

Templates don’t convey a brand

Templates are intentionally meant to be generic, that way they can sell more of them. The problem with this though is that they don’t often capture the look and feel of client’s established brand. Every company has an identity even if it hasn’t been formalized. Therefore it’s very important to understand the company and convey their personality through the website. A template design, no matter how beautiful simply can’t capture their brand.

Templates aren’t built around the content

Templates are image centric, whereas custom designs are content centric. Templates are built to sell themselves, not to communicate the content. Content shouldn’t try to squeeze into a design, instead, the design should be built around the content.

They’re bad for designers.

Templates stunt creative growth

As a designer, I always learn something from each project. This creative process is vital in staying on top of your game. There are a lot of other talented designers out there that you’re competing with. You need to constantly be practicing and thinking about design. Using templates completely deprives you of that learning opportunity and hurts you in the long term.

Templates can’t go in a portfolio

As a creative person I would never put a template design in my portfolio. Even if had purchased the rights to it, it wouldn’t be ethical to put it in my portfolio and claim it as my own work.

On top of that, my reputation would be tarnished if other people learned that I don’t create my own designs. For example, let’s say a client paid me $1,000 to create a website for them. But then they learn that I didn’t actually create the design. . .

Use templates as inspiration

Templates are a great source of inspiration however. Most templates are well made and look visually appealing. So they are a great way to start thinking about design especially if you’re a beginner.

Don’t just limit yourself to templates for inspiration though, also take a look at live websites and even nature for ideas.

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  • Post by Chris on September 21, 2009

    Excellent points raised. The problem I see is that many designers face competition from peddlers that use templates to crank out a design in a day. For the uneducated client, the speed sells. Rather, I'd advocate a code reservoir to make a designer more efficient without compromising creativity.

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