Custom Design vs. Templates

Should you spring for a custom design, or will an existing template do the job for you?

We work extensively with graphic designers who provide gorgeous designs, crafted exclusively for your site, tailored to your business or organizational needs, and incorporating your logo, photographs, and other imagery. The advantage to using a designer is obvious: you have control over the end product (e.g. you’re not simply buying something off the shelf), your site is unique, looks classy, and can visually perform all the functions you need it to.

In the olden days (of the 1990s), web site templates were generally not terribly sophisticated, and they were also overused – in using a template you ran the risk of your competitor down the street using the same one. Embarassing. Nowadays there are many sites that offer both free and inexpensive templates that can be, in some cases, popped right into your web site with minimal customization and programming required.

Simply put: a custom design will cost you more, but will be more valuable to you and wear better over time. A purchased or free template will get you up and running quickly without as much initial financial outlay, but you may find the need to redesign the site over time.

Some web sites that provide basic static web site templates:

http://www.oswd.org/
http://webtemplatebiz.com/
http://www.opendesigns.org/

Some web sites that provide WordPress compatible web site templates:

http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/
http://www.wordpresstemplates.com/
http://www.nattywp.com/

You still need a developer, though

Regardless of your decision to hire a designer or use an existing template, you will still need help setting up and implementing your site. Why is this?

  1. You want to make sure that the physical structure of your site is set up properly on the server, and that the basic server configurations are correct – this is of course especially true if you are going to use a WordPress installation.
  2. You may need some specific coding done, such as forms implementation, customization of plugins (if WordPress), etc.
  3. You need to have a professional developer review the template code to ensure that it is standards-compliant, validates according to the W3C (e.g. it is technically sound), and to roll it out across your site in a way that will optimize search engines picking up your content.
  4. It will take much, much less time and you will be much, much happier with the results.
  5. Fixing a site that a non web professional has tried to put together takes almost as much time (and money) as having a developer do it right the first time.

TIP

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