5 Tips to Easily Customize Website Templates

September 21, 2014

8:00 pm

Sometimes it’s better — and certainly faster — to run your website on a pre-built template rather than design it from scratch. Especially when your website is an important part of your strategy. There are two main scenarios for choosing ready-made templates: you either test your website and want to see how it performs with your audience, or you want to launch it as fast as possible.

However, choosing a cool, classy and sleek template that’s perfect for your business is only the beginning.

Sure, it takes time to filter through all the choices, but if you have a semi-decent understanding of how your business works, who your client base are and marketing goals you are perceiving, making a good choice is easy. The challenge begins when you’ve found that perfect template. You have to make it yours. Even if you don’t plan to use the template for a very long time, it is very important to establish some sort of identity. The template you are using needs to be made into something that’s seamless with your brand and makes your services memorable.

Fortunately, templates are just that: templates. They’re not set in stone and are frameworks that can be modified or adjusted to fit your exact business and marketing needs. And there’s some pretty easy ways to do so. Today, we’ll be talking just about that.

1. Add Your Logo

The easiest, fastest, and most obvious way to claim any template as your own is to add your branding and your logo in all of the easy-to-adjust places. Pay special attention to the header. This is the first thing that people see when your website loads from top to bottom, so having it front and center as the claiming image of your page is the fastest way to present your new template as your own.

Banner images can be easily switched with most CMS platforms. All you need to do is have your designer create an image that will fit the web page’s dimension restrictions.

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Many WordPress themes actually come with overly generic headers with the expectation that you’ll customize your own

2. Adjust Columns

Highly functional themes usually come with multi-column functionality. And to show off that functionality, the template developers usually showcase it in their default displays.

While having a handful of columns fits some businesses, the general rule of thumb is that less is more: the number of columns on your website should be one or two at most. If you do have two columns, the second column should be highly functional (menus, navigation, appropriate widgets, sharing, etc.) and with a width no wider than necessary.

3. Replace Generic Pictures

Website templates are rife with generic stock photography. And when somebody sees it, they instantly recognize it — and lose interest quickly.

While there’s a reason for template designers to keep the initial templates looking as generic as possible, there’s an even stronger reason for you to ditch that generic imagery and add photos or custom-made images that are better suited to your company. Fortunately, it’s almost as easy as copy and paste, depending on the CMS the template is based on. Templates based on Joomla are different from those based on WordPress and so on.

In the screen shots below, you’ll first see the Catalyst theme, then Be More With Less which runs on Frugal, the previous version of Catalyst, and Write to Done, which runs on Catalyst. All three website designs are from the same template, but look vastly different.

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4. Change the Colors

The ability to change template colors is truly a godsend.

Branding purposes aside, people remember images more than they remember text, and they remember color themes more than they remember specific imagery.

Beyond that, there’s plenty of research about how marketers can take advantage of color on landing pages to elicit the emotions they need based on their target market’s age and gender.

5. Modify Text, Fonts & Imagery

Though template designs are getting better and better, a lot of the traditional ones are still text-heavy and have small fonts.

But just because web visitors have short attention spans and won’t spend ten minutes reading anything, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you have your heart set on one of the more traditional templates. Instead, you can increase font sizes to make your succinct message stand out more. And where you don’t need text, you can place eye-catching imagery that gives visitors a visual representation of how your product or service can be incredibly beneficial to them.

Free tip

Use your template for A/B testing. It’s easy and painless to switch a few things from time to time and see how your audience react. This way, if you later choose to produce a custom design, you will know where exactly your attention should be.

Conclusion

In fact, the vast majority of templates, even sub-par or mediocre ones offer levels of customization that are hard for non-designers to imagine until you actually put your hand to your mouse and start doing them. Because of this, we like to encourage the visual aspects of templates to be the only one factor in considering which template to pick. Other features include: what will help your website accomplish your business goals, responsive design, strong SEO back-ends, a certain CMS, or reviews by current users on what makes each template so great.

It’s not hard to customize a template but it’s also just as easy to forget to do so. And it’s a very risky mistake. People like to connect with other people and brands and in order to do that they need something specific to look at. They need personality. Don’t forget that next time you will be choosing a template for your new website.

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Chelsea Baldwin is a writer and online marketing consultant. She works as a consultant for SMBs and start-ups to help them increase their online traffic and quality leads. Get in touch with her at chelsea@carolinafreelancewriter.com or connect on Google+.

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