I was reading this article today on entrepreneur.com, and it got me to thinking – as a small business with a limited budget, is buying a pre-made template ever a good idea?
At first I subscribed strongly to the “no” side of the argument; after all, your business identity and brand is key and it doesn’t exactly entail an image of professionalism if you slap a heavily used, bog-standard template onto your web presence. All the great content in the world couldn’t save you from the first impression your users will get. You also face the crucial problem that your direct competitors may find the same template as fitting as you do. After all, chances are they have the same interests as you and want to attract a similar user base.
Upon reflection, I realised that this issue comes down to one very important question:
“Is any web presence better than none?”
In all honesty, there is no all-encompassing general answer to this. However, it’s worth remembering that with all the smartphones, iPads and netbooks knocking around now, the Internet is essentially ubiquitous and the first thing many potential customers will do is look you up online. Combine this with the abundance of low-cost, well designed templates available for a variety of different open-source platforms (e.g. Joomla, WordPress and Drupal) and the idea begins to look considerably more feasible.
This was in fact the route taken by my old employer Martial Edge. Initially there was essentially no budget for development, so a free template was really the only option. Once the business grew we were able to extend the template and customise it to the point that it was barely recognisable from what it once was. It’s also worth noting, the brand drove the template choice, not the other way round.
I still believe it’s not advisable to stick with a pre-made template in the long-term – as your business develops, you web site should too – but as a starting point for a fledgling business, it’s not the worst move you could make. At least it gets you started!
What do you think? Can a young business get away with using a budget template while they get off the ground? Or is it more important to build your brand from the outset? Let us know in the comments!