Template for the Future?

By Will Morris, Managing Partner at Alchemy Digital

I can’t be the only one to have noticed that there seems to be a huge resurgence in a particular type of company (and no, I’m not talking about the tranche of ‘revolutionary’ flat pack mattress manufacturers). I’m talking about template website kits. With their Instagram-worthy YouTube ads and sponsoring every podcast under the sun, you’d be forgiven for wondering why people still need to be reminded to have a half-decent web presence. But with 650k new companies being launched in Britain alone in 2016 (CFE), that’s a huge market of newbies needing their first websites.

While we’re miles away from late-90s multicolour Geocities pages and nostalgic ‘under construction’ banners, there has been a gap in the market for something that enables companies to produce affordable, easy to use, effective online spaces. With the ‘internet generation’ now starting businesses of their own, they are used to intuitive design (think Apple), so these basic, drag-and-drop services are an ideal fit. A bespoke, beautifully designed website is out of reach for many of Britain’s startups (especially with funding becoming ever scarce and Brexit hurling uncertainty at the market and economy), so something they can knock up in their lunch break that still looks pretty good seems to fit the bill perfectly.

If they can navigate any challenges such as avoiding copyright infringement by nicking imagery off Google or extortionate hosting charges, they’ll essentially end up with a fully functioning website – even an eCommerce site with more time – ready to showcase their new brand to the world. But like any bargain – “buy cheap, buy twice”. With an ultimate goal of rapid growth, Britain’s startups will soon find that their website no longer suits their needs.

I see it time and again; companies with great intentions end up with a site that quickly no longer reflects their brand, or buckles under pressure at the worst possible time, and they are pushed to start again. They want to step up their game with a forward-looking site that will scale and grow with them. This is great! But do they have time to start again?

But like any bargain, buy cheap, buy twice.

The issue with template websites is twofold. Firstly, they’re ultimately temporary. Startups need to seriously consider whether they have the time to completely overhaul their web presence in the medium term, especially if they expect to expand at a fast pace. How much of a money and time investment can they afford to make into something that doesn’t work when your product’s gone viral, and you’ve thousands of people trying to get onto a site that’s fallen over?

Secondly, while the template companies often offer excellent customer service, it’s more often than not a technical help line. Believe me – everyone thinks they’re a designer, but they’re not, and while the site looks decent to the untrained eye, an experienced web designer will spot the weaknesses in moments. These companies cannot offer services such as the development of a bespoke digital strategy, or hours of consultancy exposing the assets of your brand.

If budgetary constraints mean that the template kit is an ideal temporary solution to get your brand online quickly, by all means – it’s ideal. But when your company needs something robust, future proof and aligned with your brand, give Alchemy Digital a call.