The website template fallacy

Supercar built on a template
I’m not driving that! It’s built on a template.

In most industries, where there is repetition, the creation of templates provides an undeniable benefit.
In web design, this repetition is evident in the layout, navigation, footer, etc, where the code is used on many pages. they are useful because they:

  • remove the need to recreate ‘dumb’ data, such as page formats
  • make errors less likely
  • can be changed globally across a project
  • can be broken into sub-templates

But there are two problems that arise from the use of this word.
One is that it is often used to described pre-made, low-quality websites; and the other is web companies often play on this to make the word ‘dirty’.
According to the freedictionary.com, a template is defined as:

A document or file having a preset format, used as a starting point for a particular application so that the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used.

We create templates when designing layouts for our clients’ websites. The medical profession uses templates, banks do, lawyers do. Car makers from Reliant to Rolls Royce use them. All content management systems use templates or themes to build design into their functionality.

Templates are not bad

Templates reduce the chance of introducing mistakes, make our job easier and therefore more economical for clients.
We don’t like charging clients for repetitive tasks that could be efficiently avoided.
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If we didn’t use them, we would be charging customers for doing repetitive tasks that could easily be saved by the creation of a template.
The software we use, which is widespread in our industry, uses the terminology of templates.
It allows templates to be complexly built to suit every project.

WordPress templates

WordPress is a great example of this.
In WordPress, multiple templates can be used to change the layout of pages for different sections.
This is not to be confused with the ‘theme’, which governs the overall look of the site. While a template in principal, there’s just as much chance this is a custom design, as it is in most of our projects.
So if your web designer tells you they don’t use templates, you should clarify how much they charge for debugging and also why they shirk this industry process.
I say that with tongue pressed firmly in the cheek, because what they probably mean is that some ‘designers’ are buying cheap, putting customers content in them and passing them off as a unique design.
In an earlier blog, WordPress and the identical party dress, I summed up the fact that with any service you should get what you pay for, as long as you’re aware of what you’re paying for.
But there is a noticeable trend of designers highlighting templates as ‘bad’ when they are a robust building tool. I noticed a design company recently proclaim they ‘don’t use templates’ in their projects, but on the same page, also say their price includes ‘creating templates’.
So while I know what they mean, they should focus on the benefits of creating templates, not trying to make people distrust them.