Five Reasons You Need To Use a High-Quality Template for Your Website
Your website is the primary marketing tool for your business, and as such, it must look and operate as expected. It has become a pretty standard practice for smaller businesses to use prebuilt WordPress or Joomla templates as opposed to paying a designer to build a custom website from scratch. It saves money, and it gets you, essentially, the same end result. However, not all templates are created equal. An inferior template or theme will end up costing you in the end.
What kinds of problems do we commonly see with third-party templates or themes? Quick note: Joomla calls them templates, WordPress calls them themes. To keep the rest of this post simple, we’re going to continue referring to them as templates.
The template determines the look and feel of your website. Most templates are customizable, and most also come with hard-coded elements and features to make them stand out from one another. Usually, once you commit to a template, it can take some work to move to a different one, because design elements you were once using might not be available in the new template you choose, or might not be coded in a way that just carries over. It’s all pretty complicated, and no solution is perfect. We’re going to narrow down some of the more common headaches you can run into.
The Template is Poorly Coded
While a website template may look great in the provided demo, once you install it and put it into real-world use, you can find a variety of hidden problems under the hood. Worse, since the problem is with the code itself, it may be difficult, or even impossible to correct. Core hacking a template is usually not a great idea, because when the template provider pushes an update, it would overwrite your fixes. Whether the coding issues are due to a mistake or intentional (to get you on the hook for a maintenance plan), the result will be a poor website experience for visitors to your site.
A poorly coded website can affect more than user experience. It can even determine whether or not your website is considered secure. For example, if the images used in the template are coming from an HTTP and not HTTPS source, and hardcoded into the template, you may not be able to remove or update them. While correcting such an error should be a simple fix, it can become problematic if you're using a poorly designed template and cannot locate the link or update it even if you can find it.
This can cause your site to have a Google "unsecure" notice in the address bar due to "mixed content," a combination of HTTP and HTTPS content. Moreover, if you then try to run a PPC campaign, Google may consider the HTTP images malicious software and disallow your PPC campaign from even running. As you can imagine, that can be a real problem for your marketing efforts if the images are hard-coded into the template, and you can't reach the developer for support.
The Template is Based on a Bad Design
Bad web design goes beyond using ugly colors. Bad website design can affect whether your website can attract and, most importantly, retain visitors. Additionally, a poorly designed website can indirectly affect how Google ranks your website in their search results, based on how users interact with it.
Google keeps track of how often visitors enter and leave websites (bounce rate). A poorly designed site may not effectively convey the information the visitor is searching for, causing them to leave. This could be due to poor navigation, a lack of informative content, or if the template itself doesn’t look modern, giving the feeling that your company is out of date.
The ultimate result may be that Google will assume that your website does not provide visitors with a great user experience. This may cause them to reduce the number of times they show your website as a search result in preference to your competitors, who Google feels is providing searchers with a better user experience.
But wait, isn’t design subjective?
Yes and no. To be honest, a lot of design elements don’t really matter. It’s more about how usable the website is. Fancier sites with lots of scrolling banners, moving menus, and cutting-edge layouts are actually going to deter most users away. Sure, they look cool, but your visitors don’t care about that.
The Template is Not Truly Responsive
What does being a responsive website mean? Simply put, it is a website that can adjust itself to whichever type of device is being used to view it. Whether your visitor is using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, your website should be easily viewable and accessible. All modern templates should be responsive to provide visitors the best experience possible. Your website needs to be mobile responsive.
Buttons, forms, videos, in fact, all content should be equally accessible regardless of which device is being used. Unfortunately, some website template designers treat responsiveness as an after-thought instead of considering it an integral part of the design from the beginning. This lack of concern is reflected in how the site does (or doesn’t) display the information your visitors are searching for.
Some website template developers cut corners by making their designs adaptive instead of responsive. Adaptive website design uses six preset screen widths: 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, and 1600, and hopes for the best. The pitfalls with this approach are considerable. First and foremost, Google, which is by far the most popular search engine, focuses its attention on mobile users, and an adaptive website isn’t mobile-friendly.
Google is going so far as to penalize websites that aren’t well-designed for mobile users, giving their websites lower search results. The lower your website ranks, the fewer opportunities you have to attract and ultimately convert visitors to your site. Is your website mobile-friendly? Check with Google’s Mobility Tool.
The Template is Insecure
One thing that many businesses don’t consider when they purchase a template is that the templates need to be updated and patched regularly, just like any other piece of software. If your developer doesn’t provide consistent security updates, they expose your website to compromise and vulnerability.
If your website is hacked, Google will remove it from the search results until you can correct the issue, warning that your site has been compromised. If you’re in a state with data protection laws, and your website’s database is compromised, you may find yourself facing expensive fines and litigation and a loss of user confidence depending on what type of data is stored within.
The Template Designer Offers No Support
Lastly, while no one expects a template designer to be available 24/7, you should expect to be able to reach them and have them respond to an issue. Professional template designers will often have a FAQ page to address common problems. However, there should be an email address or a ticketing system at the bare minimum so you can contact them. If you can’t reach the template designer, there may be no way for you to fix the issues yourself, leaving you with no choice but to hire someone else to correct the template, or even purchase a new template and start over.