Should I Buy a Website Template?

We get a lot of enquiries from people who have bought a pre-made website template and require it customised for their own site.

There are some very valid and excellent reasons to buy a website template. For example:

• You have no idea how to come up with yet another design, or are just stumped.
• You have no time to create a website design from the ground up.
• You don’t have the necessary skills to come up with colors, layout, and feel for the subject.
• Your budget can’t handle the expense of a website designer for the project.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that even if a majority of the design work is already there, you still need to make changes to adapt the website template to your website. So you also need to know a little HTML, CSS, Flash, or whatever your chosen website template was created with and will need some changes.

Many website templates are designed to help the buyer do this in one central area. But even then you will still end up making changes that may not be available in the design. A new popular standard, CSS, can make this much easier if you are familiar with the methods. But not everyone is and if you are just starting out, CSS has a little bit of a learning curve.

Another one of the biggest factors may be one that you don’t realise. If you choose to buy a website template, you still should personalise it to fit both your subject matter and product or service. Not to mention the fact that you will need to try and distance your website from any that use that same website template.

Many templates are eye candy, have good visual appeal, and save time and money. But as we all know, there’s much more to a good website design. Layout, proper colors, attractive graphics are great. But you also need to address user experience, search engine optimisation, copywriting, and content.

Looking under the hood, there can be a few challenges to any website template. Visual designers often overlook some basics of SEO. Anchor text links are the best for any purpose in linking and are often missing in action on templates. Proper titles, and Meta tags need to be specific to every web page in the design.

Many new website templates come with Flash routines that may look snazzy but can load slowly and certainly don’t contribute to any search engine optimisation. If the subject warrants flashy graphics, by all means use them. But always make sure they don’t cause other problems.

Another issue I see with many website templates is they place large header graphics right at the top of a web page. The most important area of any web page is above the fold (that’s the area from the top of the page to the bottom of edge of most people’s monitor). That’s the area that any user sees first and you better have whatever attention getting copy (as a in headline normally) fully visible.

You usually only have about 4-6 seconds to grab the attention and demonstrate you have fulfilled the search term or phrase they used to find you. It’s imperative that you use whatever you can to confirm your subject matter and convince the visitor to read more. That also holds true for the search engine spiders that come and review your web page for indexing and ranking according to subject.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the header graphic no more than 100 to 125 pixels deep. So the top headline needs to reinforce your content and also keep the search engine spiders aware of your desired search terms or phrases is the first thing both the visitor and spiders see. Using those same keywords or phrases in the title and actual file name is also a good way to communicate to the search engine spiders your content.

So I guess the answer to “Should I buy a website template?” is yes if you meet the criteria mentioned above. But you should also make sure you do everything you can to adapt that website template to your content, desired search terms or phrases, and product or service.

Attractive designs and complementary colors are part of the user experience but don’t sacrifice search engine optimisation and solid content. You can save both time and money with a website template but don’t forget about the SEO basics and quality of content.

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