“Real” designers will throw their hands up in horror as soon as someone mentions the word “template” or “theme.” Let’s take a more objective look at the whole thing.
Design Templates: a Massive Market
A template, or a theme, how CMS typically call it, is not a negative thing in itself. The opposite is the case, as every website is template based, and every WordPress site needs a theme. Basically, templates or themes, are the layout foundation of every website.
People like to argue whether a template or theme has to be made manually, or if a ready-made layout is sufficient. The market answers with its feet. You can buy thousands of templates and themes on the web, and get a lot of free ones too. The market is massive, and so is the demand.
By now, there are not only the notorious handymen that wouldn’t even buy the service professionally if they had the money to do so. Even pragmatic designers have discovered the market, and either offer their layouts as templates, or purchase templates to use for their customers.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these solutions:
Advantage #1: Time Saving
A finished template is – hence the name – finished. You add your own content, like text and media, and go online.
This advantage does not only apply to the consumer, as the designer can save time by using finished templates for his clients as well.
Advantage #2: Money Saving
No matter which way you look at it, using a ready-made template is cheaper than commissioning a professional designer.
The designer also saves money by going for finished themes for his customers. Usually, this allows him to offer services for much lower prices, potentially netting commissions that he would not have gotten at higher prices.
Advantage #3: Faster Selection
Templates will give customers with few own design ideas a much easier time. After all, they get to see options right away. The human is a visual being and can make decisions faster if he can see his options.
The designer can make use of this advantage as well. He could show a selection of different templates to his customers, getting a tuned layout decision right away. This lowers the designer’s effort.
Advantage #4: Meaningfully Equipped
Of course, professional designers will make sure that a website has the required functionality, which means that it contains things like a contact form, for instance. DIY’ers could easily forget these things.
Usually, a finished template was made considering all essential components. Thus, the handyman receives a complete frame, ready for him to fill it with content.
Advantage #5: Faster Switching
There’s another benefit, made up from the sum of the above-mentioned ones. The design of a template based website can easily be switched to a new one.
You probably won’t want to give up an expensive custom design after a couple of years, because it still hurts too much. Presuming you didn’t have someone bend the template until it looks like a new creation.
Disadvantage #1: Uniformity
Usually, a finished template is so cheap because it is supposed to sell hundreds of times. Template designers also make sure to get as close to the taste of the masses as possible. That’s why templates tend to be very conformable.
If you value uniqueness, finished templates are an abysmal choice. Sure, you can bend any template’s design around. However, that takes away all of the advantages as mentioned above.
Disadvantage #2: Code Quality and Sustainability
We have to be honest here. The code quality of a majority of available themes and templates is very lacking. If you are a DIY’er that want to get a website online fast, without any knowledge of HTML and CSS, you can quickly fall flat on your face.
After all, web design is no longer a simple question of looks. Search engine optimization, loading performance, and security have to be considered as well. Thus, you should definitely acquire some essential knowledge before choosing a template. The designer easily avoids this problem, thanks to his extensive expertise.
You should also try to figure out how the selected template or theme is taken care of. Does the provider update his product regularly, or at least when needed, for example when security issues became evident, or will you be left alone after your purchase? In the latter case, you should stay away from that.
Disadvantage #3: Restricted Adaptability
I have already addressed this under disadvantage #1. A finished template tries to serve a wide market, so it tends to be uniform.
On top of that, every template has its limits when it comes to adjustability and expandability. In any case, you have to try to make your needs clear in advance, which is best done in the form of a checklist. With this checklist, you can go out in your search for a new template.
Disadvantage #4: Brand Compatibility
If a finished template doesn’t fully support your brand, the only possible result is a compromise. However, you shouldn’t make compromises when it comes to your web presence. After all, internet visitors only know you from your website. You could be a midsize entrepreneur with 400 workers and a fantastic record. If your site looks as if you got it from a gumball machine, your web image will look accordingly, not correlating with what you want your brand image to be.
Thus, finished templates can only be an option for a brand in very exceptional cases.
Conclusion: Using Templates Should be Well Thought Out
As you can see, I can’t recommend or advise against using templates. However, if you put thought into the mentioned pros and cons, and use them to make your design decision, you should be able to make a profound choice.
Feel free to leave a comment if I have missed any pros or cons.