Lately, buying a website design template and throwing it into WordPress has become a popular way of getting your website up and running quickly.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it.
It might be the quickest, but it’s certainly not the best.
Here’s the deal:
Despite their popularity, most website design templates suck, and we’d advise against using them altogether.
Sure, they’re quick to set up, and for the most part, easy to use.
And It’s great that website design has been simplified. It means more of us can take advantage of the digital world to grow our businesses.
However, most website design templates are geared towards hobbyists, and small scale business owners.
If you’re serious about growing your brand and business, then you should stay as far away from website templates as possible.
Well, there are some massive issues you’ll come across if you decide to use a pre-made website template.
Ready to find out what they are, and what you should do instead? Let’s take a look.
What is a Website Design Template?
A website design template is a theme that you can apply to your website.
Say your website’s structure contains the following pages:
You could simply download a new website template, and apply it. Then all of a sudden, your website will change.
You’ll have new fonts, new colours, different elements to work with, and more.
Website templates are typically used to completely change or modify the look and theme of a website.
A template is a collection of code, images, colours, and block elements that you can use to mould into a website.
They sit on top of the content in your content management system (like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla etc) to make your website look good.
Over the last several years though, website templates have moved away from the purely aesthetic model.
Now, we’re faced with huge, sprawling powerhouse templates, like Divi, and X Theme. They now control both the content, and the visual side of your website.
And they’re a problem.
But why? Surely every site needs a template? And is it not better that they’re getting more and more advanced?
Yes, and no.
Yes, every website that’s built on a CMS like WordPress, needs a template to help style the content.
But no, it’s not better that they’re getting more advanced.
There’s a whole host of problems that we’ll break down later in this post. But think of it like this:
WordPress is the foundation level that your website is built on top of.
Then, you add in the content. That’s the walls, ceilings, and doors.
Then, you add your template to make it look good. That’s your paint and your furniture.
That’s a nice complete package or in this case, a full house
But, when you add in a theme like Divi, this is how it breaks down:
You have WordPress as your foundation. Then, you add a template like Divi, which does away with a lot of the solid foundational work that WordPress carries out.
Then, you add in your content, but rather than adding it WordPress, you add it into your chosen template.
Then you add the furniture, and it all looks greatl.
Three months down the line, you hate how your website looks so you decide to change your template out for something else.
Because you’ve plugged all of your content into the template and it’s page builder, rather than WordPress itself, it’s all gone.
Popular themes and templates like Divi (and other themes and templates like it) let you do a lot of cool stuff. Trust me, I’ve tried them plenty of times.
But they’re fundamentally wrong.
Your content should live in WordPress, not in your template files.
Then, a lightweight, well designed, well crafted template should bring that content to life.
Why Do People Use Website Design Templates?
If website design templates are that bad, why do people still use them?
Well, buying a theme like Divi will cost either $89 per year, or $249 as a one off payment.
So first things first, compared to the price of professional website design, they’re cheap.
On top of that, they market themselves as an affordable way to get a professional looking website online quickly, with little to no coding knowledge.
They also have huge followings and swathes of people that swear by them. So if you read into these templates or themes, there’s a whole legion of loyal followers ready to try and convince you.
People use pre-made templates when they want something online quickly, and want to spend next to nothing.
The drawback here, is this:
Imagine the amount of money you’re losing in your business, by spending good chunks of your day putting your website together.
Sure, it’s cheaper initially – but is it really?
The time you spend building your own site, could probably have been spent elsewhere, making you more money, and leaving the website design to the professionals.
Who Uses Website Design Templates?
So who uses website design templates?
Well, they’re often targeted at small business owners that don’t have a whole lot of time or resources. So a lot of their user base falls into this category.
On top of that, we see other “design agencies” using them for their clients.
With templates being so easy to just download and install, we’re finding a lot of new “agencies” popping up left, right, and centre.
They’re selling website design services, but they’re not actually doing any website design.
They’re making a pretty looking website, and that’s about it.
These crooks make up one of our seven website designers robbing you blind.
If you’re in any business groups on Facebook, you’ll have seen them popping up, offering websites for £100.
Stay well away!
Your website is quite likely to be your number one marketing platform, and honestly, you need to invest a lot more than £100 to make it work.
£100 these days is barely a drop in the ocean. I mean, most meals or date nights cost that much.
Anyway, I digress.
Where Do You Get Website Design Templates?
If you’re still not convinced against using a website design template, and you simply want to know where to buy one, then here you go:
Envato’s Themeforest is a marketplace for a whole range of different themes.
You can simply head over there, pick something that looks good, and you’ll be up and running with a decent looking website in no time.
In the past, we’ve used GoodLayers themes, and if we had to recommend a template creator, that’s who we’d choose.
A similar website to Themeforest, but they also create their own themes.
Woocommerce are another template creator who have a whole host of options to choose from. Specifically in the ecommerce sector.
Their template, Storefront, acts as the base for a lot of ecommerce websites.
Essentially though, if you use Themeforest, you can’t go far wrong, as far as themes and website design templates go.
However, if you’re ready to consider the alternative, let’s dive deeper.
Why Do Website Design Templates Suck?
Before we dive into the options, let’s just run through the reasons that website design templates suck.
If you’re still with me here, I’m glad I’ve made my point, but let’s just solidify it further. Just to make sure you don’t want to scroll back up and buy yourself a template to work with.
So, why do website design templates suck?
They Look Like Templates
One thing that website design templates have in common, is that they look like templates.
I can tell immediately when I visit a site that’s using a template.
They typically have large images, lots of white space, and big bold headlines, as well as a myriad of other similar design elements.
Now, I’m not saying they all look bad, they just look, familiar. Like templates that you buy off the shelf. Which is exactly what they are.
This factors into our next point.
You’re One in a (Half) Million
If you clicked over to Themeforest earlier to check out some templates, then you may have noticed how many times each template has been downloaded.
Avada, one of the most popular WordPress templates, has been sold 1500+ times in 2019 alone.
Avada’s website boasts that it has over half a million installs worldwide. Needless to say, you see it pretty often when looking around the internet.
Do you really want your website to share the same template as 1500+ others?
They Include Useless Things
Templates are criminal for including things you just don’t need, or should never ever use.
We’ve all seen the “stats counter” that grows as you scroll down the website.
Nobody cares that you’ve poured 49,000 cups of coffee. Or that you’ve got 17,000 happy customers.
When there’s no proof, and no story behind it, these elements are useless.
However, each of these unused blocks result in a lot of…
Code bloat, is when your website is using a lot of unnecessary code.
Having elements in there that you’ll never use, or use one time in a million, results in bloating your code.
What’s the problem with code bloat?
Well, it slows your website down for one. And having a slow website is one of the top website design mistakes you can make.
Each line of code adds size to your files. Therefore, it’s slower to load. In turn affecting your SEO results.
In some popular templates, you have the choice of using 1 of 20 or 30 header styles. You pick one, but then you have code for 29 headers left over.
These templates are massive.
Your website should be nimble, lightweight, and fast to load.
They’re Hard to Customise
Templates and themes sell themselves as easy to use and customise.
And from a purely design perspective, they are. It’s easy to change your layout, or the header colour, or the fonts you use.
But want to add a new header style? Want to change some of the core functionality?
Best of luck.
Templates are good to a point, but if you need to change anything under the hood, then you’re out of luck.
They Impact Your SEO Performance
As we’ve mentioned already, massive template files negatively impact your SEO.
They’re too heavy, rely on too many files, and load slowly.
Slow sites kill your SEO performance. Essentially, by using a template like this, you’re sabotaging your own digital marketing plan.
Templates like Divi and Avada rely on shortcodes and page builders for their performance. They also load in unnecessary elements, fonts, and icon libraries.
As outlined in this post on Quora, this can have a huge impact on the way your site performs in search engines.
When You Switch, You’re Done For
This sounds like a strange thing to say, but when you switch out your popular template, you’re done for.
Well, it leaves a lot of leftover code just floating around your site. This results in your site not looking great. Or bits of code being visible on the front end.
Or, if you’ve plugged all of your content into their page builder, then deactivate it, boom, your written words are gone.
As I mentioned earlier, these templates sit between the user, and the WordPress database. Sort of like a halfway house.
Content should go in at the WordPress level, not at template level.
If you do decide to use a template, make sure you backup your content in a Google Sheet, Word Document, or similar, so that when you switch, you don’t lose data.
They’re Not Targeted at Your Customers
This is the main issue with premade themes and templates.
They’re just not built for your customers. They’re built for their own.
The job of Divi’s marketing team, isn’t to sell your products or services. It’s to sell Divi, to more and more people.
Which directly conflicts with the job of your website. To sell your products or services to your customers.
It’s a vital marketing tool that can be used to grow your business.
Therefore, you should work with a professional web design agency that understands your clients and customers, to help build the right online experience for them.
Pre-made website design templates simply don’t do your business justice.
So, what should you do instead?
Use a Free Website Builder Tool
Well, let’s cover this off, and quickly.
One option is to use some free website builder software to create your own site.
If cost if your only concern, it’ll certainly cost less.
However, there is a better option.
Hire a Web Design Agency
The best way to get your business website up and running, is to work a professional design agency to help you out.
Sure, it’s not going to be the cheapest option, but I can pretty much guarantee you, if you choose the right web agency, it’ll deliver the best results,
So why does hiring a web design agency make the most sense?
They’ll Create Your Website from Scratch
Well first of all, they’ll create your website from scratch, rather than customising a pre-made template.
Sure, what they create will eventually be called a “template” or “theme” – but it’s your own template or theme.
It’s made for your business, with your customers in mind.
This trumps using some sort of off the shelf solution tenfold.
So how does a web agency create a completely tailored solution that works for you?
We’ve outlined the website design process already. But let’s quickly run through it again:
A Discovery Session
This brings everyone into one room, and gets everyone on the same page.
Here, you’ll cover your goals and objectives for the project, alongside looking at some visual styles that would work for your brand.
You’ll also cover your target audience and their buying patterns in-depth.
This’ll help make sure the decisions made throughout the website design process tie directly to your audience and their goals.
In this step, your agency will start to sketch out your site, planning out your user journey.
From there, it’ll be mocked up digitally, and then discussed between both parties.
Once the wireframes are agreed, your agency will take a first pass at the design work.
From there, they’ll run through the rest of the site and flesh out key pages for both mobile and desktop devices.
From there, it’s a case of reviewing it, and building it out.
The keys to success with a custom website project, is the focus on delivering the goods for your customers.
Not only are your design agency helping you create a website that looks good, they’re helping you get business results.
And because they’ve done it all before, the results should speak for themselves.
This sort of thing is leagues above building your own website, or using a pre-made template.
Working with a good web design agency will result in a fully bespoke web design solution that will positively impact your business.
They’ll Provide Ongoing Support
Another thing an agency adds to your website project, is the ongoing support that they can provide.
From website hosting, to SEO and digital marketing strategies, bug fixes, and more, you’ve got someone else watching your back.
If your website goes down, and you were one of our hosting clients, we’d be there to put things right for you.
This means you don’t have to waste your time trying to connect with various technical departments.
You simply drop an email or pick up the phone, and call someone you know and trust.
There are a whole host of ongoing services we provide clients at Canny:
- Website hosting
- Digital Marketing
- Content Strategy
- Bug Fixing
- Ongoing performance related optimisation
We also help our agencies to use software like Hotjar and AHREFs to squeeze as much juice out of their website as possible.
You Get to Build a Positive Relationship
As I’ve just mentioned above, you get to build a relationship with a company you know and trust.
Building a relationship with an agency can benefit you in a number of different ways.
Once you have an agency that values partnership:
- You can use them to brainstorm with and bounce ideas around
- You have an ally in business
- You can tap into their network of contacts and suppliers
One thing we do at Canny, is to keep a record of notes and ideas for each of our clients that we think will help them grow their business.
Over time, we suggest these things to them.
This isn’t an effort to “win more work” – it’s a genuine effort to help our clients win, whatever they’re doing!
Will has already covered the idea of working with a professioanl web design agency, in his post 7 Reasons to Work with a Professional Web Design Agency.
If you’re looking for more reasons to avoid web design templates, check it out!
What Are the Advantages of Creating a Custom Website?
We’ve covered off how an agency can help you create a custom website.
But what exactly are the advantages of a custom website template?
Well, they’re the opposite of “Why Website Design Templates Suck.”
First of all, it’s on brand, and specifically targets your customers. This means it connects better and will get your business better results.
There’s also no code bloat, meaning your site is leaner, loads faster, and performs better in search engines.
You have complete control over your code, meaning you don’t have to hack around things, and can easily customise it, and build it out.
It’s also been built specifically for you, meaning nobody else can have it, unless you give them it. You’ll not find it on a theme marketplace somewhere.
A custom website is a serious solution, and if you’re serious about business, then it’s the only way to go!
Conclusion: Website Design Templates Suck! Here’s What to Do Instead
This post wasn’t intended to criticise people using website design templates, or website builders.
It was written to highlight some potential issues you might face if you decide to go down that route.
I firmly believe that any serious business, should invest into their web presence.
There’s no ignoring the importance of your website these days. And the internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s only getting better.
Every business needs a website.
For 90% of those businesses, their website is the primary way their customers find out about them, or keep in touch.
Surely it only makes sense to make a great first impression? Don’t let a pre-made website design template bring you down.
What do you think? Do you use a website template for your business, or did you go the custom route? Let me know in the comments below.