Tips for choosing a new website template

James Reese heads up Reese Professional Cleaning Service, a family business started by his grandfather 70 years ago. While justly proud of the company’s history, he is a forward thinker who makes sure his company stays current with the needs of commercial clients. This spring, Reese determined that his company website, www.reesecleaningservice.com, needed a more current and polished look. There’s a reason the word “professional” is in the company name, he explained, and it was important to have the website convey immediately that Reese is a professional operation.

In addition to professional, the website had to be one other thing: affordable. Reese’s marketing budget did not allow for the fully custom website that Hollister Creative typically develops. But fortunately Reese approached us just as we were rolling out a new option for smaller businesses and nonprofits. The new option is a website created with a WordPress template. We call it SOWBA, the website for Small Operations With Big Ambitions. For James Reese, it proved to be an excellent solution.

The site launched May 9 and on May 21, he emailed us: I received two phone calls from very large companies in the last two weeks. I am sure that it is because of our new site. If you need a new website but can’t afford a custom site, here are some tips on getting the most from a template solution.

  1. Strategy still comes first. A template site costs far less than a custom site, so you won’t get the extensive consulting that gives custom websites their competitive advantage. But developing a competitive strategy remains the first step in any website design, so make sure the designer includes it in the discovery phase at the start of the engagement. The site must align with your business objectives and the needs of the intended visitors, and it must provide an experience that is as good or better than that provided by competitors’ websites.
  2. Planning still comes second. Make sure the template site package you are considering includes development of a site map showing the navigation and hierarchy of information, as well as a list of all the functional elements to be included. If you’re like most ambitious operations, you will want the site to be responsive, so that it displays properly on smart phones and tablets; you will want built-in capability to optimize pages for search engines; you will want Google Analytics installed on every page; and you will want training to show you how to use the content management system to add, edit and delete content and pages.
  3. Design still comes third. The Rolling Stones might have been thinking of template websites when they sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Only a custom website can give you everything you want, exactly the way you want it. But if the website designer follows steps 1 and 2 above before selecting a template, you will get a website that provides what you need. Having selected a template that supports the strategy and the plan, expect the designer to customize it for you with your logo, colors and other design elements that make it your own.

 

Above: New Reese Professional Cleaning Service website

Below: Old website