In our role as a digital marketing agency, we often help develop new (or redesigned) websites. It’s often not feasible to build a website from scratch, especially when content management systems (CMS) like WordPress have countless supply of beautiful website templates from which to start.
While many templates fall short of perfect for our clients, a skilled development team can create custom solutions to build on top of an existing template. But before we get hung up on custom details, it’s important to pick the right starting point.
With thousands (and thousands) of options to choose from, where do you start? This post is going to provide some guidelines to assist you in finding the template that is right for you.
Consider your content.
- What is going to be the focal point of your site?
- Is photography going to play a big part of your content?
- Is your site going to be mostly informational?
- Do you have a large video library that you want to feature?
These are all questions you should be asking yourself regardless of whether you will be using a template or getting a custom website. The answers to these questions will help to direct the process of choosing the correct solution.
As an example, if you are a photographer, the purpose of your site is to showcase your portfolio. In this case, a template that really focuses on the imagery is what would be the best fit. The ideal template would most likely be minimalistic in design with a photo gallery with nice transitions to showcase your work.
Choose a design based on your field.
These days, there are templates for almost any type of business. Just jump over to themeforest and take a look at the list of categories they have for websites: Corporate, Creative, Directory, eCommerce, etc., etc.
So don’t just jump in by browsing all templates, dig into the ones that are more suited to your business. Trust me, it will be a much better (and quicker) experience. Scrolling through a pile of unworkable templates that wouldn’t work for your business, that would just be discouraging altogether.
Ease of customization.
Most templates built on a content management system have a customization dashboard that allows you to easily update everything from the color scheme of the entire site to the individual elements like the color of hyperlinks. This saves you the hassle of having to make any changes to stylesheets or code.
Do the template features match your business goals?
The upside of using a template (other than the time saved on the site build) is that the majority of templates come with features to help you create the website you want. Keeping with the example above, if you were a photographer, you would clearly want some sort of photo gallery incorporated into your template. A second example might be the needs of a business with multiple locations. If you have several locations, you may want to incorporate an interactive Google Maps for each location.
One thing you should definitely look for in a template is mobile usability. Whether the template is responsive or mobile friendly (I explain the difference here), Google has announced that it will be paying closer attention to and placing more weight on whether a site is mobile friendly or not. In fact, an upcoming algorithm update will begin to penalize websites not in compliance with new mobile usability standards.
Some examples of features that you would want to look for are:
- Responsive/mobile friendly
- Contact Form
- Media/video Player
- Photo Gallery
- Google Map
- Visual Page Editor
One of the great things about using a Premium template, like those featured for purchase on sites like ThemeForest, is the level of support provided by the template developer. When you buy a premium template, the developer is more likely to provide detailed documentation, consistent updates, demo content, and ongoing support through a forum or some kind of helpdesk application.
Additionally, using a template marketplace often gives customers an opportunity to rate the developers work and provide comments. This is perhaps the easiest way to get a feel for the quality of the developer’s work and their responsiveness to issues that buyers might be having when using the template.
Using a template for your website certainly can have its advantages in saving time, cost, and stress; however there are some things to consider before beginning your search for the perfect template. Hopefully by taking some of the things I mention above into consideration before you start your search you will save time and avoid a headache when digging through the literally hundreds of templates that are out there.