When creating or updating a website, one of the things people are often most interested in is the site design. Sure, backend functionality is important and, yes, a tight integration is crucial, but a modern and functional design is usually the first thing to signal that a site has been updated. So, when it comes time to design your site, should you hire a designer or rely solely on a template?
The Rise of the Template
The beauty of today’s technology is the sheer number of options available. For those looking to build or update a website, that means that there is a seemingly endless amount of frameworks, services, and templates that can be used to create your site. And while these templates make the process of designing and implementing a site easier, you run the risk of having a site that is not very unique or, worse, a site that isn’t designed to work with your content and business goals.
In his blog post, Sergio Nouvel makes the dramatic claim that web design is dying of irrelevance, and one thing to blame is the ubiquity of the template. While that may be a hasty conclusion to draw, he does make some good points.
“A whole world of free and paid templates lets you get started with a professional-looking design in minutes. Why hire a web designer if you can achieve a fairly acceptable design for a fraction of the cost using a template?” Nouvel wonders in his article.
So, where does that leave the role of the designer? Madeleine Morley recently pondered that question in an article for AIGA.
“At their worst, templates can undermine the importance of the role of the designer and make anyone with the ability to click a mouse feel like a designer themselves—as if choosing colors and selecting from a variety of patterns is the extent of the designer’s discipline,” Morley writes.
But what about at their best? While they may not promote individuality, templates offer the basics of proper design elements to a wider audience. In an environment when good design is viewed as a luxury, templates offer the fundamentals for those new or smaller businesses that can’t afford to hire a designer for a custom site design right off the bat.
The Role of the Designer
Designers have not been relegated to the role of template creator, however. Designers can help businesses get the most out of a templated site design by customizing and building upon the frameworks to create an experience that is tailored for your site and your users. For example, here at Briteskies, we take the best of WordPress templates and Magento frameworks and build upon them to create customized and tailored UX for our customers.
Designers are, and have always been, problem solvers. As site templates become more accessible and advanced, the problem that needs solving may not necessarily be designing a site (although we always recommend using a qualified designer for your implementation). Instead, the problem at hand is how the user will interact with your site.
User experience stretches beyond your customer being able to easily find what they are looking for; it extends from desktop to mobile experiences, social media, apps, and more. Creating a cohesive experience across all of those platforms takes more than just a base template.
As Nouvel says, “Pretending that you can run a business or deliver value just by taking care of the web channel is naïve at best and harmful at worst.” As more and more moving parts need to be designed and integrated into your company’s online presence, a designer’s expertise will be paramount to creating a cohesive identity.
Do you need an expert eye to take a look at your site design, online experience, or overall brand? Contact our team.