There are currently tens of thousands of website templates to choose from in the market in whatever niche you want. Of course, these templates are much more cost and time-effective, as you don’t need to hire a team of design professionals.
All you need to do is buy the theme, follow the instructions and get it rolling. Designing a website from scratch indeed costs a lot, but is it still the better option in the long term? After all, leading a successful business is no simple thing to do and you also need to adapt to the needs of your customers or clients.
You want those users to convert, and conversion rate optimization often requires you to apply a lot of changes. Now, the real question is, how changeable website templates are? Are they even optimized for conversions in the first place? If the answer is yes, to which degree?
In this article, we are going to answer these pressing questions and show you the pain problems of working with website templates from a CRO standpoint.
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How Often do Businesses Use Website Templates?
There is a huge competition between all the different websites that offer website templates. Many of them are widely popular and promise their templates to be fast and optimized for conversions. Many web hosting companies also offer a wide selection of templates along with their hosting packages.
The number of articles talking about the downtrend of custom web design is also on the rise. These claim that you are better off using website templates, as they are your best option now. Of course, most of this is only marketing, as who would not want to sell their single template to thousands of people?
They go even further and write about how custom web designers should start making templates and themes themselves. There is a lot of money to be earned in this category indeed, as web designers can not only create templates but also customize already existing ones.
All we can say is that articles that aimed at popularizing website themes are not going to answer these pressing questions:
- Are website templates worth your money in the long run when it comes to conversion rate optimization?
- If the answer is no, then how should CRO professionals approach the problem?
- If the answer is yes, then is there anything for CRO professionals to do when dealing with these websites?
Does Your Website Have to be One of a Kind?
Do businesses that aim to have a one-of-a-kind website even have an edge over their competitors? According to websites that are based on selling themes, originality does not matter at all. Maybe they are right, but again, it is a marketing tactic that revolves around selling as many themes as possible.
If you buy a popular theme, your website is going to look the same as many other websites out there. According to professionals, this is not so much of an issue. After all, there are many entrepreneurs out there who are proficient in optimizing websites, yet they are not proficient in web design.
For them, the abundance of website themes out there can come in handy. The psychology behind it is that people are not going to be upset at all when they see a design they got used to. Similarity means that it is going to be easier to wrap their head around the design.
Although this is not the one best practice everyone should aim for, it certainly works. Website templates are great for kickstarting your online presence. They allow you to quickly get your site going and apply changes later as feedback starts to flow in.
Whether you use a custom design or a ready-made theme, you are going to need to change your site over and over again if you truly care about your customers. Conversion rate optimization is a process that never ends. Launch the site, collect feedback, fix your issues, publish the page, run some A/B testing, choose what works best, then repeat.
There is No Reason to be Overly Cautious
The fact is that there are millions of websites out there and most users genuinely don’t care if they see the same design again. From the online entrepreneur’s standpoint, it might seem disingenuous to use a template that many others have purchased.
But again, templates are customizable and your content is unique. A template is not going to hold you back from creating something special. What is important is to choose a theme that works best for your business and then apply some changes to make it fit your business ideas and target audience.
On the other hand, there are many templates out there that follow the same scheme. This is also true for custom-made websites. How many times have you seen the same two-column layout that is so popular among bloggers? Two columns of content, then one column dedicated for promotions on the side.
People who are browsing the Internet are generally looking for something familiar, something expected and easy to use. If they find it, they are going to appreciate the pattern they are already familiar with. They look for the logo to their top left immediately and then expect the navigation bar to be next to it.
Breaking these patterns is risky, as it exposes users to something new that they might or might not like. If they like it, they are going to find it engaging. If they don’t, they are going to get frustrated.
Website Templates are Great for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Buying a website template allows you to start small. After all, building up an online presence is not easy and it also takes some time to build up some revenue. It requires a small investment that average people can afford and start to build something meaningful.
Simple themes and landing pages are available for most of those people who subscribe to a web hosting package. For such a small investment, you not only get a reliable hosting service – if you choose the right one – but you often get plenty of templates to choose from.
An online business doesn’t have to be done perfectly at first. With time, effort and experience, you are going to be able to perfect it in the long run. Therefore, we can already see how design templates are a good bang for your buck if you are a beginner.
With a good landing page, you can already start to work on conversion rate optimization. Meanwhile, you can experiment with customization to make that design perfectly fit your brand. To choose the right template, you need to know what to look for in templates.
You need to start with a comprehensive plan. In that case, simply going for the most popular templates out there is often not the right decision.
Working with a Template is Like Building a House
While looking for website templates, keep in mind that they should only be used as starting points. Look for something simple, as if you were to build a house from scratch. Every house needs a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, a bedroom, etc.
Once you have the fundamentals, you can continue with the customization part. Maybe you want the bedroom to be a bit bigger, while the kitchen to be somewhat smaller. Choosing paint color, positioning the lights, and choosing the right furniture is also part of the process.
You also need to be aware of the fact that different types of websites appeal to different audiences. For example, a template designed for photographers is not necessarily going to be great for a business that wants to sell gaming hardware.
At first, you need to look for templates in your niche and put the ones you like on a list. Then, take a look at the differences in design and conversion focus so that you can find the perfect one. For starters, it is better to look for simple ones instead of those that come with fancy sliders, parallax, or animations.
Picking the right template
The point is to end up with a template you can start working with, as you are probably going to transform it into something even more appealing. Here are the most important things you need to consider when looking for a website template:
- Minimalism – Your value proposition has to be in the focus so that your target audience immediately understands your message. Choosing a template that makes this easy is the right way to go. Steer clear from those designs that are loaded with design elements you don’t even need.
- Responsiveness – Does the theme look as great on smartphones or tablets as it does on computer screens?
- User experience – How would the template perform in front of the crowd from a UX standpoint?
- Navigation – Is the navigation bar user-friendly? You won’t need a fancy navigation bar to catch the user’s attention. Keep it simple and stay away from themes that offer a never-ending scroll design that prevents users from reaching the footer.
- Customization – Consider the main ideas behind your brand and choose the template accordingly. Does it fit your needs? Is it easy to customize?
Purchasing the right web template and publishing it is going to be the beginning of your optimization journey. So far, we have been discussing the main benefits of choosing a ready-made website theme. However, there are some risks and downsides to consider as well:
Website Templates and Conversion Optimization Principles
People who design website templates are, oftentimes, not specialized at all at conversion rate optimization. The design themes look awesome while minimizing bugs and hopefully guaranteeing an enjoyable user experience. But that’s about it, as CRO principles are often not considered.
Entrepreneurs often just buy ready-made landing pages, thus saving their time and money and they leave it at that. They get their marketing campaign going and hope for the best. It is about accelerating delivery and reaching the target audience as soon as possible.
You need to consider this: Your everyday web designer is most likely not proficient in conversion rate optimization. What they know is to work with typography, grid systems, trending design patterns, and all that jazz.
Designing a website in a way so that the viewer’s attention is focused on the right things is a completely different field. It is most likely going to be your job to design the site in a way that encourages conversion.
Designing for Conversion is Not a Low-End Business
Designers who work with templates are not going to do so with CRO principles in mind for a low price of $30. It is simply not worth it, which is why they rather go for looks and functionality. This is why you need to look for website templates that are easy to customize right off the bat.
It is up to you to do some research and start optimizing your website right away. Then, once enough traffic flows in, you can continue by collecting user data. Test your traffic and try to figure out what improvements have to be made to increase conversions.
On the other hand, even if the designer would design the templates with CRO in mind, chances are that it is still not going to work for your business. Conversion rate optimization methods that work for other businesses might not work for yours.
The biggest mistake is to use a website template as a crutch. Even if you choose the right template to work with, it probably won’t be fully ideal for your content or audience. Get ready to apply a few changes here and there before and after you make your website public.
Maybe you have discovered the template by looking at the websites of other businesses. In that case, keep in mind that what might have worked for that business is not necessarily going to work for yours. High-performing templates should be handled with caution because the design is highly dependent on context.
Here are the questions you need to ask before using a template from a conversion rate optimization standpoint:
- To which degree does the template fit my industry?
- How is my content going to be presented in this template?
- Is this website theme going to work well with the tools I want to use?
Website Templates are Designed to Fit Common Needs
If you would consult with a design team to create a custom website, then the design would be specific to your business. There would not be any extras, only those features that you need in accordance with your goals and brand.
This is not the case with website templates. After all, if a template is too specific, its target audience is going to be narrower as well. With a template, you usually get a long list of features and elements to work with and you are probably not going to need most of them.
The focus of a web theme is divided into many different features. Just take a look at the previews provided by most templates. They are designed for various purposes and various types of content. You could build up a dozen different websites in different niches with most of them.
You can easily fall into the mistake of using too many different sections for your site. What you need to do is cherry-pick the ones you truly need and work from there. It is not to say that either of the sections has a bad UX.
However, if you use too many of them at once, you are going to confuse the user for sure. Write down the goals you want to achieve with each web page and make the user able to focus solely on your intent.
We can conclude that using a website template is a great idea if you are about to start a business. As long as you consider it as a starting base that you will need to work on in the future, it is going to be great.
In the beginning, all that matters is to become visible online. Then, with a few improvements as preparation, you can start publishing content regularly. Once you have accumulated some regular traffic, you can also start to collect data from your users.
By doing some research and applying the right CRO principles, you can start improving the conversion rate of each of your pages as well. Getting your business up and running is only the beginning of the journey.
Keep in mind that every site is different so don’t try to copy the methods of other businesses that use the same design. Instead, focus on doing your own conversion research and iterate until the results you get are satisfying enough.
Website templates are great for saving time and money, yet they are only the starting point when it comes to conversion rate optimization.