Understand how templates will be used on your site

Templates control how content is arranged on your website’s pages. The number of unique templates your site requires directly affects the time it takes to build it and the cost, so you’ll want to know what they are and how they work before you start to chat to your web team.

Templates are confusing territory in the world of web design as they can refer to a number of different things. In theory, a template is anything that can be used repeatedly to bring about the same pattern in layout and appearance. It’s like a virtual cookie-cutter.

But aren’t templates bad?

It depends on how you use them. Designers may have cautioned you against using “template websites”. When they say this they usually mean using an “out-of-the-box”  website design templates that are used by many other sites and thus will not give your site an unique appearance.

Template websites: The same design is applied to a number of different sites. If you use a website template your site won’t be unique.

WordPress, along with many other CMS, offers design templates of this kind. In WordPress, these are known as themes and work like “skins” for your site. If you have had a WordPress.com blog before, you will remember that you can select a theme for your site from the theme store, either for a price or for free.

Selecting a popular theme means your site ends up looking like many others. This kind of website template is fine for a blog, but not great for a business that needs to leave an impression with visitors.

These publicly available website templates or themes are the ones web designers caution against for precisely this reason. Your website should be tailored to your industry and unique to your business.

Even unique websites still use templates

When a web company creates a unique design for a website, they are still building a kind of template, even though it’s unlike any other. This is because the design itself is comprised of a number of page templates that are repeated throughout the site.

We’ve mentioned above that in WordPress, the main website template or “skin” is called a theme rather than a template. This distinction is useful as it lets reserve the term “template” to describe the particular arrangement of content as it is repeated inside a website.

For example, a site that has a news section in which each news article follows the same layout, is using a template for all its news pages. Every page has a headline, a sub-heading, the author’s details and the content in precisely the same place.

On a services website a template will determine the same layout for all individual services pages.

Every website, even if it has a completely unique design, still uses page templates to control page layout.

A content management system is inherently reliant on page templates to serve up pages and let users easily add new content. Imagine a website containing hundreds of products that didn’t have a template to ensure every page followed the same layout? It would be chaos.

Even though they are repeated inside of a website, page templates may be completely unique to a site.

Page templates: The same look and feel applied to pages within a site. These can be completely unique to your site.

Templates take time to design and build

This is why the cost for website projects is usually calculated based on the number of unique templates that need to be designed and built.

The good news is that where that template is repeated (or even where parts of it can be repeated), it will save on development time.

Being aware of this can help you keep costs down and may speed up the build time of your website.

Keep this in mind when you’re discussing your new website’s look and feel with your web team. Your site will benefit from a number of templates to ensure not all the pages look exactly the same, but it’s usually possible to make some wins in productivity and time by ensuring all your service pages use the same template, for example.

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