In reality, I’m a pretty sensitive person. But occasionally something does get back to me.
“She just customizes templates.” was actually someone’s idea of disdain for my work.
Uh, yeah I customize templates. But there’s no ‘just’ about it.
Hear that world? We customize templates! I admit it freely and openly in many blog posts even.
So why do we do this? Thought it may be good to clarify why!
Because templates save us time and, as a result, our customers money.
The whole ‘coding from scratch’ thing sounds pretty noble. Like having an architect custom design your house. Or creating your own recipe. Or building your own computer.
But guess what? Having a framework is helpful. That’s why we buy computers with already existing operating systems and software installed, plans to build our houses, and cookbooks.
Letting people figure out and test something then modifying it for our own uses is something we do in lots of areas in our life, why not websites?
I have actually tried build from scratch.
To the delight of parents of picky eaters everywhere trying to get their kids to try new vegetables, I’ve actually tried hand coding websites before I said ‘No thank you, more sweet potatoes please.’
I have hand coded exactly two HTML sites, neither of which are online anymore. It took long (don’t worry, I don’t charge customers for my learning curves, it was only painful on my end) and the results were lack luster compared to what is available today. So yeah, if I have the option of giving someone something better that I have the ability to do more easily anyway, I’m going to do it.
Because the amount of people who have gotten together and created a template is more than one (in almost all cases).
Kind of like how a composite photograph will always be more attractive than a photo of an individual person, a design worked on by multiple people is going to be better. It just is.
By working in collaboration, you can work out the bugs, get different points of view, and have a much better end product. And that’s what we’re starting with before our team even creates a custom design to go with.
(We even try to work with frameworks that are powerful and well known. If you really want to geek out on the difference between a template and a framework: https://cohhe.com/wordpress-themes-vs-wordpress-theme-frameworks/)
Because giving a customer something they can work with means that they are not stuck with us ever.
Because we use a standard system (WordPress and Joomla) and follow the standard rules (creating child themes, putting design customization in the right file location, etc.) other web types can locate where to make changes in my code easily.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever inherited someone’s filing cabinet (when you bought a business or changed jobs) but it’s kind of annoying. A template means we’ve agreed on well labeled folders so when and if that handoff happens, it’s a smooth transition. Thinking of the person coming after you of course isn’t necessary but something I feel is the right thing to do.
Because templates mean when the customer creates new pages, they will look consistent.
Do you really want to remember that you have to copy the menu on top, make sure the text is 18 point Helvetica and that the standard photo size is 450 pixels. What about headline fonts/colors, link colors, spacing, etc?
Even if you build something ‘from scratch’, you are going to end up making a page template so the site looks consistent as people browse from one page to another.
With templates you can set rules that all pages follow, when a customer creates a new page, I know that it’ll match all the other pages. Rather than restricting a customer to editing only certain elements of a page, I can let them go wild (I mean it is their website) and know it’ll still look pretty good at the end.
So we customize templates. And everyone who works with us gets a custom design that is unique to them. But we think this is a good thing, versus a bad one.
If I thought something was an inferior product, I wouldn’t offer it. Honestly. I live my life by the French proverb “There is no pillow so soft as a clean conscience”, in my business and personal life.
But as a company, I can firmly say we believe the collective wisdom and work involved in templates is a great start to a great website that is unique to each individual, company, or non-profit we work with.
I guess if this is the worst thing I hear about myself, I’m doing ok. But here’s hoping this clarifies why we customize templates versus building from scratch… and why we’ll keep doing this moving forward.