Leveraging Design Templates for Power Marketing
In a perfect world, website and domain owners would
be able to release new sites with fresh and innovative
designs rapidly, impress users and secure top positions
on search results pages with ease.
The challenge is that we’re not all blessed with the intrinsic sensitivity
to “what looks good” — that preternatural ability to know
what colors, elements and images will make a positive impact on the
users visiting our site. Instead of releasing websites as quickly as we
dream them up, ideas (and the sites that follow) often fall by the wayside,
despite our best intentions.
The solution might just reside in pre-structured design templates.
Stay up to date on the latest Internet trends:
Request a professional subscription to Website Magazine,
the most popular print publication on Web success.
Many years ago, in an effort to promote a Web-based service, I created
an information-rich website on a separate domain. Without formal
design skills at the time, leveraging a freely available design template as
the framework seemed like a good idea. It allowed me to populate all
the information I had on the site quickly using WYSIWYG (what you
see is what you get) design software. What was the result of rich content
plus an appropriate design template? After 24 hours, the new site
was born and it actually became more profitable than the original Web
service I intended to promote in the first place.
Leveraging design templates provided either free or with a small
fee eases the financial burden and the time of creating new designs
for the exclusive purpose of marketing content. Ideas can materialize
and launch as fast as they were conceived. That flexibility combined
with ingenuity can lead to unexpected success, as well as a way to
stay a step ahead of the competition. On the other hand, custom websites
can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars (even for just
a five-page website) and there is no guarantee that you will like the
final product. Plus, fundamental elements of the idea can quickly
change, causing even greater customization needs, increased financial
commitment and precarious delays. While templates may not be
right for every Internet enterprise (especially those employing fulltime
designers), it does offer those with big ideas but little design
experience or trouble circumventing barriers an opportunity to
embrace innovation and test new grounds.
There are hundreds of providers online who do an amazing job of
aggregating design templates from freelance or agency designers
looking to make a name for themselves in the hyper-competitive
world of Web design. Some even staff teams of talented designers.
While an educational practice for some and even a networking
and promotion practice for many designers, the value offered to users
of these templates is immeasurable. Notable providers such as TemplateRover.com,
layoutbank.com and others have thousands of design templates from
which marketers, website and domain owners can choose.
Chances are high that you have
seen the same design (or at least its
elements) on more than one site.
Spend a few minutes navigating
the Web in some under-served or
over-served niches and the problem
becomes magnified — critical
users will often leave the website if
you’re not offering a unique design
experience. But with a few simple
modifications you can satisfy even
the harshest of design critics.
What parts of these templates
can be modified to separate your site from the competition? Some
elements of standard templates to consider modifying include:
color palette which is easily adjustable within CSS files; size and
font of headings and subheadings; and core header image available
within most basic website design templates. Tapping into the
supply of available Creative Commons images is one method to
find images that fit your plan and are free and legal.
Savvier users can make specific customizations including the
size and placement of sidebars or footers, the presence of primary
and secondary navigational elements, the inclusion of background
patterns (should the site itself warrant such treatment) or
even replacing entire navigational elements. In most, if not all pre-structured
design templates, some modification or customization
is required, even if it is simply displaying a company logo.
Design templates are by no means the answer to serious
design issues. It should also be noted that there is no replacement
for a custom design that takes into consideration the uniqueness
of a business (or an idea) requiring a sophisticated presentation in
order to impress users and support the brand.
Choosing a Template
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine
the most used pre-structured design template
on the Web. But there are certainly a
few that stand out (if not scream out) as popular among template
users. Most design template resources provide a rough idea of
how many times a template has been downloaded and that figure
can provide a guide on what to stay away from if you want the
design you choose to be unique. Case in point, popular template
RedTie has been downloaded a whopping 172,000 times since
first being added to OSWD.org.
However, don’t dismiss a template purely on the number of
downloads — it can indicate a platform’s stability. If a template is
rarely downloaded but has been available for months or years,
that might indicate it’s difficult to use or customize. Also check for
active demos because they can provide a glimpse of the customization
possibilities. And look for user comments to get an
idea of any pre-existing flaws or issues.
As noted previously, innovative design is a challenge to create
and can get expensive. Despite the loud guffaws of professional
designers, there is a place for design templates. Realize they serve
well in certain instances to provide a framework to take to Web
designers and can provide an unmatched level of inspiration for
your next big idea.
Above is a standard template from the most popular blogging platform,
Blogger.com. No doubt, you have seen countless websites using this
template, or one very similar. The problem then, is that users immediately
get the impression that this is an amateur creation and not a serious
Web enterprise. You might be an amateur, but you don’t have to
look like one.
This image is another Blogger template, but one that is highly customized.
While the fundamental design elements remain the same and
the interface is still simple, users will have a much harder time dismissing
this as a novice production. Templates like this are easy to find,
download and implement, and can be an easy way to launch new websites
and ideas. Visit http://btemplates.com for what is seemingly an
endless number of options, or search for other templates online. Even
basic templates can be easily customized by hand, and there are many
tutorials online to help.