There was a time when I would have scoffed at the recommendation to use a template to create your website.

As web DESIGNERs we believed that each business was unique and deserved an individual online expression of its snowflake-like beauty.

Nowadays I wouldn’t build a site without one, so what has changed ? Do we no longer consider ourselves web DESIGNERs?

The fact is the focus has changed and people who use websites have changed the way they enjoy the web. It’s now the information orientated observer who is visiting your website, with less time to smell the roses in a much, much more crowded online world.

But it’s a template it will look like everyone else’s website!

Don’t worry you are still unique and beautiful; now there are thousands of templates to choose from, for every software platform, all incredibly customisable leaving plenty of room left for self expression.

But the key argument is due to the (up to) 40% of visitors viewing your website on a mobile or tablet, this being the case design needs to be RESPONSIVE.

RESPONSIVE DESIGN

The key argument for the use of the website template is responsiveness(ness). The modern website has 5 faces; desktop, mobile portrait, mobile landscape, tablet portrait, tablet landscape.

 What a responsive template means is that the page elements of your website will adjust to the size and orientation of the device that it is being viewed on.

It will essentially shuffle the content around to make sure the font size is readable, the images fit on the screen and the most important stuff is emphasised on the small screen where attention spans are reduced.

It also means you don’t have to pay for 5 individual designs., which leads us to:

PRICE

A separate design for Mobile, Tablet and Desktop screens is not unheard of these days, but it is rare. The simple reason is cost, as well as having to pay the designer for 5 screen layouts (per page style) you will need to pay the front end developer to code the CSS for all of the different formats.

If you have the money there are some advantages to it and because you are reusing elements it won’t be 5x the cost realistically, but expect to pay at least twice the design and programming costs if you forsake the template.

FLEXIBILITY

It may sound counter-intuitive, but a template actually allows you to be more flexible in the long term with your website.

Finally got the photographer in and you want to add a gallery page?

Starting to get a good Facebook following and want to add the latest comments onto your homepage ?

As you business grows so should your website and with a template you have the ability to add new elements in to the layout and have them responsive to the different screens without having to run back to your designer every time you need a new feature added.

GOOGLE HAPPINESS

Rumour is that Google will rank your site a little higher if it’s responsive, this may be propaganda spread by the template makers but I can believe it.

What is for sure though is that you will have your SEO managed from one place and have the same URL for your mobile and desktop websites for easy crawling.

BUT WONT MY SITE LOOK LIKE EVERYONE ELSES?

Not with a little imagination and some key elements, there is an art to working within the framework and still standing out.

And as mentioned there are hundreds of options and all of them are pretty flexible. Let’s take this website for example Brown Paper was build on the Jupiter template by Artbees (one of my personal favourites) take a look at the demo and see if you would have picked it.

http://artbees.net/themes/jupiter-demo/

Our favourite one-page-one-product client Coffee Berry Tea was sculpted from the backbone of the Apollo Shopify theme, check them out side by side to appreciate the level of creative expression in the execution:

http://www.coffeeberrytea.com.au/

http://apollo-theme.myshopify.com/

To conclude, if you have a few hours to spare duck on over to Theme Forest and wander through the endless options, all categorised and catalogued and be confident in the knowledge that every dollar you invest in a theme will save you at least ten in design and programming.