Prebuilt Themes - Template Clubs vs. Building Custom Layouts
For a long period of time we at CreativeSights completely rejected prebuilt or commercial templates, as we were put off by web developers and designers who would simply slap up a commercial template, charge several thousand dollars and call it a "custom" site. We felt it was unprofessional, deceitful and sloppy. However, more recently we have come around and sometimes use commercial templates to reach a more price-conscious market.
What's a template or a theme?
To clarify, themes and templates have a similar meaning in relation to websites that utilize content management systems (a CMS). They generally control the layout features of the site including typography and color schemes along with content placement and site object sizes. Many CMS applications like Drupal and blogging platforms like Wordpress refer to these as "themes" while others like the Joomla! CMS refer to them as "templates." As we're primarily a Joomla! shop at CreativeSights, I'll use term "template" if for no other reason than consistency in this blog post.
What's a template club?
There are designers and companies in the market that do nothing other than build templates that can be taken and installed on any site which meets their specified technical requirements. While some companies produce templates that be purchased individually, others sell access to their templates via club memberships. Basically, you need to subscribe or join the club to have access to their template.
Why use a commercial template?
Typically, we use commercial templates when clients seek to launch quickly with something that looks "nice". Unfortunately, to accommodate and provide a product to as many potential users as possible, commercial templates become very bulky and code-heavy. Even though the website may not be using many of the options built into the template or theme, those options still frequently lurk and run in the background regardless often using resources.
Additionally, customizing a prebuilt commercial template can often be more work than starting from scratch. Not all templates or template companies are created equal. Sometimes they follow coding standards and sometimes they don't. If you're comfortable with a look almost identical to the "out of the box" layout displayed in the demo, they're nice - otherwise we generally suggest going custom. Furthermore, you'll need to be comfortable with the idea that someone else could have a website that shares a lot of graphic similarities.
The biggest factors to weigh are time and cost.
Commercial templates can initially save quite a bit of money on design, but in the long term may cost more has they need to be seriously modified or "hacked" to really get you what you need. The upfront cost for a custom layout is usually substantially more than an out of the box commercial template solution, but a clean start can prevent extensive redevelopment time giving you exactly what you need right from the beginning.
Another benefit is that commercial templates can be fast to deploy. As there's really only minor design tweaks to be done, the process is significantly faster as we can generally skip the mockup stage and go straight to production layouts on the testing server. Once again, however, substantial deviation from a prebuilt template can and significant time and cost to a project quickly.
There's more to a great site than looks.
One of the nice things about the Joomla! CMS that we use a lot at CreativeSights is that we can upgrade or switch the template at just about any point just like virtually any other extension. The concept is not that different than giving a car a different coat of paint. It's another example of the assertion we frequently make that websites must do more than simply look good. Content and site structure are all independent of basic look and feel on a well-built website. No one really cares how nice a car might look if it can't go anywhere.
At CreativeSights we generally prefer to build the custom layout that's exactly what you like and need from the start. Additionally, we love working with professional graphic designers who can help us create layouts that beautiful and completely unique to your business. One of the skills we're particularly proud of at CreativeSights is the ability to turn any Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator into a functional website layout.
Invest for success with CreativeSights.
We place high worth on investing in your brand as a company and organization. Chances are you didn't pick your logo and company branding out of a catalog, so we don't feel website a layout selected that way should be a long term solution.