If you understand the value of branding to your business, then you probably already know that template-based sites can dramatically diminish the value of your brand. Usually the promise of “get your website up and running tonight” is practically impossible to fulfill, software is complicated, the templates don’t give you the freedom to truly brand them, and a host of other issues. Templates are funny, since to truly take advantage of them, you should really know some HTML, cascading style sheets, website structure and more. Oddly enough, when you know about these things, you generally don’t need a template.
That being said, there are plenty of templated sites out there. For small businesses, they provide a jumping point for getting on the web. So how do you get your site to stand out from them?
Integrate Social Media
Most templates these days don’t allow for social media integration like Twitter feeds. Embedding your Twitter feeds allows you to stand out as well as truly connect with your audience.
Your company probably spent a few dollars on creating a strong and relevant corporate identity (including a logo and color scheme). Most times, you just can’t find a template that really leverages this to grow your brand. Make sure that your site reflects your corporate branding through color and type. Most templates don’t give you this kind of flexibility.
It’s About Your Image
Literally. The photos used in templates are generic images. Where you can, use custom photography of your team working, playing, engaging. Show custom photos of your products. Crop stock art from sources like istockphoto.com in interesting ways.
Create a User Experience
Templates tend to take a basic rule, like “the navigation needs to run across the screen under your logo”, and stick to it. Every aspect of your site should reflect your business. Leverage what makes you and your business unique, and create a user experience that reflects that—rather that funnel your passion and creativity into a plain bucket. Create navigation that reinforces your brand. Place elements on your pages where they make sense to your users.
The principals for standing out among a sea of similar wannabes is the same for the web as it is for social media and all other forms of marketing and connecting with your audience—be true to yourself, be unique, and communicate with your users in a meaningful dialogue. Do this and you’re sure to rise above the masses—and make those sales.