Website templates providers such as Themeforest run a brisk business hawking countless of polished, beautiful, modern website templates for popular platforms like WordPress and Joomla for as low as US$13. Most of these template providers even offer technical support and documentation as post-sales customer care. Heck, some marketplaces even quality check the template for you, so what can go wrong?

Wallpaper by Kitsune Noir for the Desktop Wallpaper Project
Everyone’s felt that a blue rectangle at some point in life – © Kitsune Noir

Out of budget, out of time

Website templates are seldom perfect out of the box. When I was working a website designer and developer in Singapore, clients would buy or download a template and then have us make “a few small tweaks” to the template. Often, these “few small tweaks” aren’t small (or few) and run contrary to why they decided on acquiring a template in the first place instead of a opting for a full, custom design: budget. While it’s cheaper to buy a template than to design and build a site from scratch, customizing templates can be an expensive and time-consuming venture.

Customization woes

If you wanted to add a feature or customize your theme beyond the basic options provided within your purchased templates, you will need to go under the hood. Unless you are technically proficient, you are gonna need a developer’s help. You might be able to go back to the theme developer with a customization request as they are usually inundated with support tickets or too busy building their next money-spinner theme to engage you. Even if you managed to get the theme developer to customize the theme for you, customization rates vary wildly and the quality of the work varies even more wildly than crytocurrency prices.

Designed to just look good

Website templates are great until you actually start using them

Websites templates look beautiful and that’s all they are good for: looking beautiful. Clicking on the live preview button brings you a working version of the template stuffed with gorgeous stock photography and perfectly sized copy chunks. No odd numbers on an even row of content blocks. No banners featuring fonts from the original installation of Microsoft Windows 95. No blog articles that display tables with real numbers. Once you’ve purchased the template, installed it and populate the site with your content and you will realise that a website template has no room for real content.

Dedicated support with templated responses

When buying from template marketplaces, support for your purchased theme is really provided by the theme’s developer. Topping up for extended warranty does not guarantee that the theme developer will be prompt or helpful when you run into trouble with your theme. More often than not, these themes developers will refer you to their “dedicated support team” that will tell you the solution to your problem is to reinstall the template, over, and over. And over again.

Isn’t it time to break the cycle and start designing around the content we have?