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Look at the competitors and look for common website trends in Design

Quick, Effective Web Design: Templates?

By Todd Levi

When deciding on a web design it is important to know your competition. What do you like about there site? What could be done better? Are there certain aspects of the site that would appeal visually? Are there certain aspects of a competitorís site that have helped in organic SEO/SEM?

Are there certain aspects/offers on a competitorís site that may draw people in? I think these are all important factors to keep in mind when visiting the competition in the pre-web design phase. However, this article is going to focus on another aspect:

Namely, is there repetition in style amongst your competition? If you where starting a business to rival NetFlix & Blockbuster movie rentals online, you would immediately become aware that the two look very much identical except for the color scheme. In a similar respect, you may even find two websites using the exact same design in the same industry. Then you may find the exact same web design on a web design template site! This situation is the low point of template web design buying. If you decide to use a template (and I will argue that sometimes this is the way to go) you MUST KNOW YOUR COMPETITION!

If nothing else, template web design can spark ideas. There are many template sites out there like BoxedArt.com and TemplateMonster.com, and even a variety of free ones, with decent web site designs. When browsing through these sites it can be very helpful for sparking the idea in your head of what you may want your web design project to be like. Adversely, many of the templates found are also very generic to a certain point. There tends to be an overwhelmingly corporate feel to a high percentage of templates on the market. Not all web designs call for a corporate look but just simply need to look professional to gain credibility. Take aspects that work from different designs and merge them with the current identity you are looking for. Donít get carried away with this process though, if you take away a little from each one you may get a very disorienting look and feel to the site as each design may vary. Likewise, when I say take it is important to emphasize that I am not talking about stealing. These template designers have spent time and expect return, however if you find a font you like and match something as simple as this to a similar font that would fit in with your design then use the idea. Donít directly take images or color layouts. This browsing of templates for ideas is very much like browsing your competitorís websites for ideas and scoping the market.

If you are looking at purchasing a template make sure to follow these guidelines:

1. Know that your competitors are not using this template. If you are a national chain, you will probably not be reading this as you may very well have your own unique design team. For everyone else, how far does your competition boundary spread? If you own a local hot dog stand, you may only have a handful of competitors in your area that are branding themselves. Buying a template that can be purchased by the public even after you purchase it may be ok in this instance if the hot dog template is a great design. In this case it would be a perfect fit for a low priced design that may be high quality. If however you may run into multi-state or national competition for your product then you may opt against the generic template as a foundation to your design.

2. Make sure the template is only the foundation to your web design building. This may mean that you use the overall structure of the design, but change all the graphics to make the design more personalized. Often times this also means that you will change the color scheme to fit with your current identity or logo. Also, maybe only a portion of the template should be used. Does it have a great looking header or search box, but the rest of the site is left to be desired?

3. Always make sure to follow the guidelines of the company your purchase your web design template from. This is important as certain amount of ďredesignĒ of the template is most likely expected in the user agreement.

Templates certainly are not for everyone, however when small business owners are just trying to get there feet wet online, a template may be the best choice. They are typically professional looking, well thought out (in many industry themes), require less knowledge to build from than a web design from scratch and most certainly more affordable than starting a web design from scratch.

As a side note: There are many web template sites out there that also sell limited download web design templates for a little more money. These are templates that once purchased a few or one time are taken from the template library and now longer available for purchase. These can keep branding in house and save time and money if the design is what you are looking for.

 

About The Author

Todd Levi has been designing websites for 5 years and is currently owns http://LeviSolutions.com which is a Fort Collins based Web Design Company serving the Colorado area.

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