When You Should Consider Using a Site Template or Wizard to Build Your Own Website

I’m a web designer letting you know when it’s important not to use a web designer. I feel this is very important to discuss, because many customers spend a lot of money when a much simpler solution is available for them. HTML and other web technologies are easy to learn, but very difficult to master. There are many automated template and site wizards which can walk you through developing a simple site without any prior web design or programming knowledge. For the right customer this is a great solution to their web design needs.
The Look:
Although wizards and template machines have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, they still have a somewhat “generic” look and feel. If setup perfectly a website audience may not know specifically they are looking at a template site, although almost unavoidably they will feel uninspired by the look and at least subconsciously know they’ve seen a ton of websites with the same idea. The designs are usually engineered to be able to be conformed to any business so they lack any cohesion or emotional link to your specific company or individual site. There are some exceptions to this. Extremely large e-stores may have a VERY extensive library of templates even ones catered to specific professions. If the success of your website depends on an “expensive”, ultra professional, or creative look then definitely rule out this possibility.
Time Frame:
Templates and wizard sites are usually advertised with tag lines like build your website in 5 minutes. Regardless of the simplicity of the interface, if you’re going to build a good website even with a wizard or template expect to spend hours and hours of your time on it. Without the help of a professional who can guide you through the trial and error discovery and content refinement process, expect to do a lot of research on your own. In addition if you have problems or make mistakes you won’t have an ability to get instant help and tech support is painfully slow. If you have strict time schedule requirements, rule this possibility out.
Ideal Candidates:
> Websites that represent industries where the website itself is not meant to be profitable (IE no e-commerce sites)
> Personal home pages.
> Situation where the website’s goal is only to reinforce the product or service and not to provide new customers but as an information source. Industries or services were extremely good automated web solutions exist and are easily available. One example is real-estate agents, although elite agents may want a fancy website, a normal agent can find very satisfactory template website solutions that are complete with industry specific functions and features like mortgage and interest calculators and live up link with their firm’s properties. In addition all the web competition has kept the price of these services VERY low.
> When only the product has significance. If your setting up a website to sell a used car, and want your local ads in the paper to point there, people could care less if the graphic design looks professional. PLEASE use a template.
> If your testing an idea or concept and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
What not to do:
Here is what I don’t recommend. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT try to build your own site by learning a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you editor like front page or Dreamweaver, unless you already know these programs well and have a lot of web experience. These programs are not intuitive and will allow you to completely mess up your layout and code.
Although extremely limiting, the online wizard and template machines have a certain degree of fail safeness to them. You simply supply the information and they setup the pages for you. You can upload pictures and adjust them quickly and easily following simply directions. In a WYSIWYG editor there are many non intuitive things you have to know WELL in order to create a website that’s functional. I’ve have A LOT of website customers come to me after practically pulling their hair out with all the problems they encountered trying to fix problems in their self created website.
I’ve also met very few non tech people who were successful at building a good looking website with front page or dream weaver. If you’re a computer power user, that’s of course a different story, but even for you, good web design is a very difficult thing to grasp. Use an online wizard, builder or template instead of a WYSIWYG editor, unless you have a LOT of time on your hands.

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