Do legitimate web designers use off-the-shelf templates?


What are your thoughts on whether legitimate Web Designers should use off-the-shelf templates for their clients?


It depends on a number of factors including

  • whether the work is being sold as being unique
  • how much the buyer is prepared to pay (if they can’t afford a unique design you might offer them an existing template instead)
  • the requirements of the buyer (are they paying to have sa site set up for them or are they paying to have it designed)

I personally wouldn’t do it (as I prefer to offer unique services) however there’s no reason why other people shouldn’t. It’s a legitimate business method to customize and set people up with existing services. It’s no different to using stock photography if your not much of a graphic artist. :slight_smile:

If the client is happy, I don’t see why the web designer shouldn’t be, unless it is some sort of shot at his or her pride. In some cases, clients may prefer this method, as it is surely cheaper for them and would provide a quicker turn around for both the client and designer.

I don’t know that I would base my reputation on it, but it certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to make some quick cash while charging a discounted price.

Define “off the shelf.”

Are you talking templates purchased from other people, or standard templates they have which they offer for use at a discounted rate?

There are legitimate uses for each for a web designer, and would depend on the circumstances, the budget, the timeframe needed, etc. A low dollar, quick turnaround site (for a friend or a non-profit) could be valid reasons for using them. As long as the designer doesn’t try to pass the work off as his own and the customer is happy, what’s the difference?

A non-unique standard template which you’ve purchased/obtained from somewhere like TemplateMonster

My original answer still stands - there are perfectly acceptable reasons to use off the shelf templates. As long as the designer doesn’t try to pass the work off as their own, it should be fine. There are additional steps required to implement most templates, so there is some skill required even for that approach.

I don’t use templates per se, but I do use pre-rolled layouts by other folks at times, partly because it saves me from reinventing the wheel time and time again and partly because it saves a great deal of time (of which I have very little). As long as you’re up front with the client ahead of time – and warn them in advance that you’re using a template they might see in substantially similar form on other sites – I see no problem with it, in limited circumstances.

So if a client came to you and said I’ve picked this template and I’d like you to turn it into a website please you’d turn them down? I wouldn’t, I’m in the business of having satisfied clients.

You might be taking that a step further than he was… I would imagine he meant unless specifically asked, which is a very acceptable answer. Can’t really add editing a template to a portfolio :wink:

Yes I did mean unless explicitly asked, I’ve no problem with CMS’s and I certainly have no issue with retrofitting or redesigning an existing template (if there’s a reason to do it) though I prefer to end up with something unique that’ll meet the clients needs. Just bundling someone else’s templates “as-is” isn’t my idea of web design. :slight_smile:

In your OP you never said anything about a designer using a template without the clients’ knowledge so I assumed that you just meant using them at all. That being the case there are times when I’ll happily use a template because I don’t have any personal requirements about my work being unique, I just want to give the client what they need.

Sure you can, you say ‘Site by, using a template from’. In my view this makes you an even more useful webdesigner because it gives clients yet another option to choose to meet their requirements.

On low budget jobs I’ve even recommended to clients that they pick a template rather than pay me to create a design. They get a great looking site at half the normal price and everyone is happy.

Well I’ve never made uniqueness a requirement, I just have a horrible mental image of ending up like a factory line, pushing out design after design (probably in part from when I worked in software development where I ended up writing endless functions and “solutions”). I certainly have no issue with templates if the client’s got a tight budget and / or just wants something that just “does the job” but if I get the opportunity to make something tightly designed and unique to go beyond the task and give the visitors a more interesting experience or even just to throw something extra into the project, I’ll go for it in preference… that’s all I meant. :slight_smile:

Hi Alex,

Just thought I would mention this one small thing you must consider for each an every image that anybody may use for anything, please remember to check the copyright on all images you use (even for web sites) you may end up being sued if you do not check the copyright release on that image you intend to use, and yes I know there are free stock photos that you can use, but the fine print could mention (if you intend to use this image for commercial purposes then written consent or approval must be given for the image release) but most free stock photo’s and if not all will need to carry a photo credit (photographers name or stock photo supplier watermarked on the image) for the use of the image, free does not always mean free, lol, I say this in the politest way possible as I am a photographer myself. I see people using images for there work all the time without checking if they can use it for that purpose and not realizing they can be sued for copyright breach. Sorry to be a barer of such info, just thought it should be included with your advice on stock photo’s, and it doesn’t matter how much editing you do to the image in Illustrator or any other software it is still a copyright image. Images can now be tracked via there Matadata. The Digital age is upon us.

Thank you, and hope this is helpful

MrMarkuss, thanks for the feedback though it’s worth pointing out that I’m well aware of the issue of copyright (I’ve been building websites for a fair number of years thus it’s something that’s always on my mind - so I’ll assume your info was more general than aimed specifically at me), however I will state that I never mentioned that stock photography was free (that you seem to have added on your own - which seems rather a strange thing to add midway through a thread) and I never stated that using unlicensed images were a good idea. In respect to image editing, there is an un-established line (like with content) that beyond a certain point of remixing… an already copywritten work can be considered a new image and thereby copyright is re-established (such as under fair use). Though it’s also worth pointing for completeness that remixing a work that you aren’t licensed to use could be violatory (depending on the law that exist in your country). :slight_smile:

I try to make every new site as unique as possible.

I made my own template or prototype or whatever you call it, with a css file, php functions, possible javascripts I could need. All things I used and written before by experience and practice, so I also know how to deal with errors afterwards. All in directories to have different files separated, same for photo/images/video and other media.

When starting a new site, I copy the template, rename, and start laying out the new design in xhtml and css and add some content, see where it gets etc…

I have been designing sites since 2002. I have NEVER used a template that was ready-made, even when I didn’t know how to create a decent looking one. My growth as a self-taught designer was possible only by trying to do the work on my own. I am looking at beautiful designs every day to see what beautiful things people create, but I work my designs from a blank page in Photoshop till the coded design on the site. If you cannot design, then you’re not a designer. I would rather outsource the coding for instance, if I lacked the time to code my designs, than use something others created.

I like to code my sites from the ground up. That way I know that the code is slear, concise and meets all xhtml, css and 508 standards.

I will confess to ‘borrowing’ other things I liked from web sites if it is something cool, intuitive and well defined. But I will always tweak it to fit my developing methods. You learn a lot of the do’s and don’ts in 16 years of coding for the web. :wink:

I don’t think it matters. If the designer is happy and the client is happy, they both win. It’s all personal preference.

In my earlier days of web development I did this some, mainly b/c the clients I was scraping didn’t want to foot the bill for a design. Most were mom & pop local businesses that really didn’t need much of a web presence anyways. Sometimes I actually think I cared more about how it looked than they did.

That being said I can’t remember the last time I used a pre-rolled template (aside from a forum I setup last year). But I’m catering to a higher class of client than I did in the beginning. When your design budget for a project is in the tens of thousands of dollars the client expects fully customized and targeted designs, and we give it to them!

Also, sometimes it’s more work to use somebody elses template than to roll your own. At least if we build it we know it’s right, when you buy a pre-fab you have no clue what you’re getting in terms of standards/css/html…etc could be gold, could be junk.

Personally I wouldn’t mind if a designer does that. But my main concern will be the graphic, pictures, etc comes with the design. I have seen cases that the off the shelf template does not have rights to the photos being used.

I usually clarify this with them when they did the design for me.