7 Issues When Relying on Templates for Web Design

DIY websites have come a very long way since the first web builders were first introduced in the mid-1990s. Not only do modern website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify, and others feature easy drag-and-drop design functions but there are now also thousands of free-to-use website templates to choose from.

For better or worse, templates have effectively democratized web design, allowing virtually anyone – even people without coding or design skills — to launch a working website in minutes. Not only do templates make building a professional-looking website seem easy, but their low cost and extreme abundance also make it possible to find solutions that, on the surface, seem a good fit for any brand.

Unfortunately, this convenience comes with a risk. Templates may allow novices to quickly build a visually-interesting website but it is highly unlikely to be a high-performing one. Without a team of web designers and developers to guide the site-building process, templates could seriously compromise your site’s competitiveness and its long-term ability to generate value.

Below are some serious disadvantages of relying too heavily on website templates:

1) Limited Conversion Optimization

The biggest disadvantage of relying on templates to do website design is that, without knowing how to code, your options for optimizing a site’s conversion rates are effectively limited.

To begin with, the vast majority of templates you’ll find out there are of low quality, with most of them created by individuals with no web design or conversion optimization experience. If you have no web design or business experience yourself, it’s also all too easy to get swayed by templates that are visually striking over ones that are intentionally designed to drive conversion rates.

Also, to ensure the popularity of their creations, even template makers with web design experience have to make designs that appeal to a wide range of users. This means that you’ll find a few options that will work well enough for your website, but you are unlikely to find an off-the-shelf template that is optimized for your needs.

Being unable to fully optimize your site’s web design for conversions can make it very difficult to turn visitors into leads or customers. If conversion optimizations are no longer possible, the effectiveness of other marketing and sales efforts may decline. This may ultimately raise the cost of facilitating each conversion.

2) Excessive Code

“Code bloat” or excessively long and overly complex code is a hidden danger that is present in websites built through templates. Having code bloat is generally undesirable because the excess code can use up server resources and also make the site more difficult for both bots and human visitors to explore.

In practical terms, some level of bloat is unavoidable even with the diligent implementation of best website maintenance practices. However, templated websites are often victims of bloating for a few reasons.

First, template makers are often under pressure to produce a lot of templates, with more emphasis on looks and little emphasis placed on coding efficiency. Next, template users are often inexperienced in web development and web design and may not even be aware of code bloat having any effect on their site. Lastly, even the best website-building tools tend to generate code bloat by themselves.

As a result, sites built purely through templates are often riddled with all kinds of serious optimization issues. These issues can have serious consequences for the website’s operations, branding, and bottom line.

3) No Search Engine Optimization

Templated websites often have low search engine visibility because of poor technical search engine optimization (SEO) characteristics. This poor technical SEO is in large part due to the code bloat mentioned earlier. This excess of generated code can use up server resources, causing timeouts, glitches, and slow page loading speeds.

Left unchecked, these issues can cause a site’s service levels to plummet, resulting in poor user experience (UX) and low conversion rates. Additionally, the online performance signals given off by a poor UX can cause Google and other search engines to deprioritize the page on their results pages.

Lower search engine visibility can be catastrophic for an online business as it often results in a decline in organic traffic as well as visitor trust, as pages ranked lower in the results pages tend to be less trusted. This can lead to fewer conversions and may damage the brand, ultimately making it more difficult to grow the business.

Thankfully, technical SEO issues related to bad templates can be resolved by a team of specialized SEOs. After doing a site audit, SEOs can implement quick improvements to improve site performance as well as make long-term recommendations related to a site’s coding and design.

4) Potential Security Vulnerabilities

Excessively complicated code also increases the possibility of site glitches and exploits being created, potentially creating entryways for hackers and other malicious actors. Because templated sites are prone to code bloat, they are especially vulnerable to serious security issues.

Online security is a very serious matter. An unsafe UX can damage brand equity as well as the website’s ability to create value. Also, failing to prevent malicious activity may even leave the site owner vulnerable to legal action, should visitor data be compromised.

Fortunately, good site hosting and maintenance practices will do a lot to prevent security issues stemming from bad coding. However, all other things being equal, a templated site with unfixed code bloat will be more vulnerable than one that is properly modified or developed from the ground up.

5) More Generic Look

Templates are usually designed to appeal to a wide audience, which necessarily means that the most popular ones are probably also the most generic-looking. Unless the template is modified by a properly-trained web designer, it’s unlikely that the site could avoid a generic look and feel.

While this is not the biggest issue for many businesses, it could be a serious one for those who want to develop an unmistakable and, therefore, valuable brand. This means that site owners that want to use a site builder to save money should, at least, consider taking on the services of expert web designers and developers to modify the template into something better for developing their brand.

6) Expansion and Scale Issues

Not only will bad templates hog server resources but many templates are also built with bad coding practices that make it difficult for other developers to readapt them to emerging and future needs. This means that a template selection done years ago can prove to be a serious roadblock for many site owners who want their website to address current challenges.

Choosing the wrong template can seriously impede your site’s ability to expand. When chosen and modified by web developers and designers who are sensitive to a business’s needs, templates can actually make it easier to increase the scope and size of a site. But if someone without real web development experience selects a template, it may lead to serious issues, some of which may not manifest until much later.

7) Limited Support

Customer support for site templates is generally limited, and often nonexistent. Should your site encounter issues because of how the templates are coded, you may have little choice but to finally hire web developers and designers to fix the site issue.

Even if you hired good developers and designers to do the job, your problems aren’t necessarily over. If the template developers failed to properly document their processes, the challenges of fixing these can become more acute. Unfortunately, poor documentation is commonplace when template developers are under pressure to crank out a high number of templates.

Final Thoughts

By themselves, website templates may be fine for non-branded landing pages and for learning the ropes of website development. However, in terms of performance, long-term business value, and customizability, relying on templates alone has some serious disadvantages.

Site owners who want their website to have the best potential for technical SEO, site expansion, brand development, security, loading speed, UX, and conversions should seriously consider having a site made from scratch, using well-understood best practices.

Despite the higher initial expense of having a custom website built to spec, having a site that’s properly developed from the ground up should have the highest theoretical potential in those areas. When properly maintained, a custom-built website should offer businesses superior long-term value that far outweighs the lower initial cost of using unmodified site templates.

However, owners of templated websites don’t need to fret about having missed an opportunity to improve their site’s performance. An experienced team of web designers and developers should be able to clean up a templated site’s code and implement improvements that improve its UX, conversion rates, search engine visibility, and its overall potential for generating value.

Whether you you want to build a custom website or have your current one running at its full potential, contact SearchWorks.PH. Our web design and web development will be happy to discuss your site with you.

Arthur Piccio
Arthur Piccio
Arthur Piccio has been a professional content writer and developer since 2007. He has helped develop market-winning, localized web content for hundreds of brands based in the US, the Philippines, the UK, and Australia. He is currently a project manager at SearchWorks, the most respected SEO company in the Philippines.
Arthur Piccio
Arthur Piccio
Arthur Piccio has been a professional content writer and developer since 2007. He has helped develop market-winning, localized web content for hundreds of brands based in the US, the Philippines, the UK, and Australia. He is currently a project manager at SearchWorks, the most respected SEO company in the Philippines.