You Are Not A Template.
Self-service is convenient for a lot of things. Salad bars. Gas stations. Checking out at the grocery store. And in a time when the list of “instant” website providers seems to go on and on — Wix, Moonfruit, Pixpa, Jimdo, Weebly, Shopify, The Grid, Godaddy, Squarespace, Wordpress, MoPro, etc. — it’s tempting to wade into the world of web design the same way you’d get a cup of froyo. After all, they all claim to offer the convenience of your very own website without knowing how to code.
Website templates often sound great and can sometimes be an okay solution when starting out — i.e. when your budget is tight, and you can’t afford a truly custom website experience. But once your brand has matured it’s time to invest in your web presence in a way that communicates the same pride you would when speaking about the venture you’ve built. After all, in 2017 your website is essentially your brand’s public “face” — the first thing people see and your first shot at making a good impression.
At The Future Forward, we’re frequently asked why a custom-designed website is more valuable than one created using an off-the-shelf template, and our answer is often the house analogy. The difference between a pre-designed home and one designed specifically for you is rather immense. With the former you’re trying to fit your needs into someone else’s vision, experiencing all the frustrations that doing it backward so often entails. With the latter, all of your needs and desires are considered first, and the design, layout, structure, and materials are then chosen to fit those needs perfectly (presuming you’re working with a great architect!).
The same can be said of a template website vs. a custom design. With a pre-designed site, you are taking design and functionality that is seemingly generic enough to work for your needs (and everyone else’s), but almost always results in limitations where you aren’t able to create what you need. You also tend to get lost in the sea of other websites on the internet (now over 1 billion and counting), with no lasting impact or distinguishing factors to separate you from your competition. So while this option is initially “cheaper,” costly support and a shorter lifespan often result in a limited return on investment.
The reality is when it comes to the ever-evolving WWW there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone’s needs are unique, so every website should be too. If you truly believe in your brand (which I’m sure you do), then your site should be as individual and considered as the products/services you offer. And the people behind it should be thoughtful humans, not faceless robots.
While the website builder list will likely continue to grow and may serve a certain purpose, in the end, it is not the answer. For good design never comes from a mold — it must be carefully crafted with the goal of solving specific, real-world problems. Considering every detail and making all decisions based on the needs, desires, personality, and audience at hand. Where the result is a website experience of lasting value.
Sorry website builder co., but that’s the real future of the internet.