If you’ve been using the internet for a few years, you might have noticed that everything’s suddenly started to look the same in recent years. In the same way that the centers of towns and cities have begun to look homogeneous because they all feature the same shops, takeaways, and chain stores, websites and webpages have also begun to take on an identikit look. Those of you who think you’ve noticed this trend aren’t imagining it. It’s really happening, and it’s all to do with the rise of basic website templates.

In the early days of the internet, which now feel a little like the wild west for some programmers and designers, every website was custom-made. You might be able to get some very basic guidance from some services and hosts, but other than the basics, you were left to fend for yourself with basic HTML codes, and you were at the mercy of the skills of your chosen web designer. If your chosen web designer wasn’t up to scratch, you ran the risk of appearing on a list of hilariously awful business websites. That’s not a fate anybody wants for their own brand.

Thankfully, nobody has to suffer that fate anymore. The plethora of website templates available means that anybody capable of copying, pasting, clicking, and dragging can now put a reasonably competent-looking website together with a minimum of effort, and without the fear of embarrassment. The downside of this is that it’s likely to look exactly like several hundred other websites that all exist and compete within the same industry as you. With that in mind, are website templates a good idea or a bad idea?

Before we explore this question further, we want to make it clear that having a cookie-cutter website isn’t a barrier to making money. As an example, take a moment now to log on to any online slots website of your choosing. Take a look around it, and when you’re done, pick another online slots website and take a look around that one as well. Chances are you just looked at two almost identical websites, and yet there are hundreds of such websites all over the world making big money. That’s because customers go to those sites to play slot games, not to check out cutting-edge website design. If your product is good, your customers will come anyway. There are still a few reasons why you might want to pay for a professional designer to build you a totally customized site, though.

Templates Can Be Bad For SEO

If you’re an established brand and you have enough money to pay for favorable placement in search results, this isn’t a concern for you. If you’re a smaller or newer company trying to fight your way up the rankings, though, templates can be a real killer. Although WordPress, Wix, and all the other template websites will strenuously deny it, most experts agree that templates, and especially templates that come with tags, are bad for SEO. SEO can seem a little bit like black magic to the uninitiated, so check out one of the internet’s many handy guides if you’re not sure what we mean by this. To put it in basic terms, though, if you live in Denver, Colorado, and you run a pet shop, you want your website to appear on the first page when people search for pet shops in Denver, Colorado. It’s easier to make that happen working without a template than it is working with one.

Call To Action Limitations

Similarly to SEO, getting ‘Call To Action’ functionality right on a business website requires both skill and knowledge, and to execute it properly you need to have your ‘call to action’ buttons – the buttons that allow a customer to contact you or buy something – in exactly the right places. A template can be very restrictive in this respect. Some templates don’t allow for the placement of buttons like this at all. Others will only allow you to put them in certain places – and they’re often not the places you want or need them to go. Building a sales website is as much about psychology as it is about artistry – and for the psychology to work, everything has to be in the right place.

Reliance On Others

If you build a website through a template generator, you’re probably relying on quite a lot of the mechanisms of that template generator to keep it online. People who build their own websites tend to have their own servers. If you built your site through a template builder, you’re probably using the template builder’s webspace, too. If they experience downtime, your website will also be down, and there’s nothing you can do about that until they fix the problem at their end. Some of their functionality may periodically break, too, and there’s nothing you can do to expedite the repair of those broken elements either. While it’s true that websites can fail or break down when stored in your own webspace, you would at least have access to that so you could prioritize repairs. Not being able to do business and also not being able to do anything about the issue can be hugely frustrating.

Lack Of Individual Flair

This comes back to what we said earlier on in the article. Unless you happen to be the owner of the most unique business in your home country, your business will be one of many that do the same (or very similar) things. To get chosen by customers above your rivals, you have to be able to stand out from the crowd. An identikit website won’t let you do that. In fact, if it’s particularly plain, your potential customers might not even remember the difference between the website they’re looking at now, and the website they were looking at twenty minutes earlier. In other words, you could be forgotten about. For a website to make an impression, it has to be unique – and to be unique, it needs to be one-of-a-kind.

Website designers are more expensive than templates, but then eating at a fine dining restaurant is more expensive than eating at McDonald’s. If you know your product will sell no matter what your website looks like, go with a template. If you want or need an advantage over your rivals, a bespoke build is probably the way to go.