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June 9, 2008

How Templates can Help you Save both Time & Money

A web site template is essentially a finished generic site. It is designed with all the graphics and coding to help you put your website online with as little cost — and in as little time — as possible.

Templates run anywhere from $30 to $200 — a professional design will likely cost you 10 times that. Starting with a good template can also increase the speed of the website creation process by up to a factor of 10. All you (if you have the skills) or your designer (if you don’t) need to do is customize the template to meet your needs.

However, there are even more compelling reasons for starting with a template:

First, you probably know by now that web site planning is hard work and — more than that — it’s critical work. However, did you also know that most of your project costs are committed in the first few decisions you make? Efficiency expert Joseph Romm (in “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”) states:

“Although up-front building and design costs may represent only a fraction of the [project’s] life-cycle cost, when just one percent of a project’s up-front costs are spent [on design], up to 70% of it’s life-cycle costs may already be committed.”

It’s just like the old saying known well to construction managers: when designing a building, you’re going to make all your worst and most costly mistakes that day. That’s just the way it is, and there’s no getting around that, so — the goal is always to work to minimize those costs, and templates can go a long way towards achieving that goal.

A great template can give you a leg up on your initial design challenges. Specifically, the two most critical design challenges you’ll face on that first day is 1) coming up with a visual design that will compellingly draw your customers/clients “in” and 2) coming up with a specific information architecture that will expertly organize your site’s information in such a way that your customers/clients can immediately understand and use it. A good, well-chosen template will take into account good information architecture, and it will have a compelling visual design.

If you’re not sure how to evaluate the visual design and informational organization of a template, you should consult with a knowledgeable designer who has usability experience.

Finally, if you’re looking to build an eCommerce site, in addition to the above benefits, a good eCommerce template can help you solve the sales funneling problem, i.e., solve the problem of how to get customers to move from an awareness of your product to making the decision to purchase your product.

The acronym AIDA describes the four stages that you typically need to facilitate converting customers into buyers. Specifically, there is first Awareness – they realize that a number of possible actions is available to them (to meet their needs/solve their problem); Then comes Interest – they actively self-select and show a preference for a particular course of action; Then comes Desire – their enthusiasm grows as they investigate the course of action; Then finally comes Action – they are moved to act and reap the benefits of the course of action, i.e., they purchase your product or service.

The topic of AIDA is a big – and admittedly – a complicated one. For example, there are many performance-based landing page optimization and testing companies out there that specialize in website tests with non-parametric proprietary technology. The goal? “Tuning” a website by a set of models known to increase conversion rates. For a fuller treatment of this topic, check out “Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites (VOICES)” by Andrew Chak.

Be sure you talk to a qualified web developer and/or designer before purchasing any template to help you make sure it is the right one for you.

About the Author

Christopher Sky is the owner of Brooklyn Sky Design, a small boutique web design shop in Brooklyn New York that has several years experience in both application web programming (e.g., ASP.Net, Flash-Actionscript) and in web site design. Brooklyn Sky Design understands the importance of solid usability and design principles and how to apply them so that your customer’s initial perception of your site’s value is positive. This encourages them to not only purchase your products and services, it also encourages them to become repeat customers.