A website template is a pre-made design and layout that you can adapt to your own needs. For a designer it saves lots of time in coming up with a design, for the webmaster it’s a quick and easy way to get an attractive design for your website and for the small business owner it’s a cheaper way of having a professional look to your website.
The drawbacks to using website templates are that your design will never be unique – there may be lots of other websites out there with the same design – maybe even a competitor. Next, a template may not have the exact layout that you require (maybe the nav bar is in the wrong place or there’s not enough room for your logo or the menu has too many options that you don’t need) in which case you would end up paying a designer to modify the layout anyway.
However, given that there are tens of thousands of pre-made website designs available on the internet the chances of you having the same design as a competitor are extremely remote. Infact, given the cost advantages of pre-made templates, I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
There are dozens of different website template stores online so knowing which is the right one can be a difficult task. I have composed a list of the top 5 website template stores that I highly recommend from personal use.
5. Boxed Art – From $49.99
This website offers an incredible range of products for your website, from simple website templates to logos, brochure layouts and even mascot. If you develop a lot of websites, then boxed art should be in your toolkit. The best part is that of the thousands of products that they have, you get access to all of them when you pay the subscription fee.
A lot of their layouts and designs are a bit bland and can look quite ‘templatey’ and may be hard to customize for your use. There are not many designs available that are really stunning. However, given the sheer number of templates and range of products they have available, it shouldn’t be hard to find something that you like. Also, so many of the other products can be used for promotion of your site.
Another great thing about Boxed Art is that it is updated nearly daily with different products so there is always something new to check out.
You can check out Boxed Art by going to: http://www.boxedart.com
4. Dream Template – $59.99 Per Year
Just like Boxed Art, these guys offer you access to thousands of templates for a single yearly fee. Although they don’t have the same amount of, or range of products as Boxed Art the design quality is noticeably better. The templates have less of a templatey look to them and are definitely stylised with a more modern touch.
They have a large range of XHTML & CSS templates which is the design and build method that is becoming the norm nowadays. More importantly to some, they have a whole category for Web 2.0 templates as webmasters all over the world look to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. The problem here is that everyone has different ideas as to what a Web 2.0 template should look like, so some people will invariably be disappointed.
A membership to Dream Template also gives you access to three other sites. If you are a prolifant webmaster, then access to the CMS themes site is worth the money all by itself with dozens of Joomla, WordPress and osCommerce templates available (some of which are very good!).
One slight drawback to Dream Template is that the stock is not updated frequently – maybe once or twice a month. But if you want a design that is of a higher quality than Boxed Art, then check out Dream Template.
You can find out more about Dream Template at: http://www.dreamtemplate.com
3. Template Monster – From $45 Per Template
Template Monster is the heavy weight in the world of website templates. Their designs are of the highest quality and are easily as good as a professionally designed website. In many cases they are the trend setters in the design world, although some of their older designs may look a little dated (they have been online for around 5 years), the latest designs look bang up to date.
Another great thing about Template Monster templates is that they don’t look ‘templatey’ at all. With a little customisation your site could look as if it was tailor made to your website requirements.
They also have a wide range of WordPress, osCommerce, ZenCart and phpBB templates available. All of them are of the highest quality and you would be hard pushed to find a website that has better looking themes for these bits of software.
One minor complaint that I have about Template Monster is that they insist on integrating flash into most of their designs when it’s not needed and they don’t code all their new templates to the new XHTML & CSS standards. Although they do release some templates like this, most are coded in valid HTML 4.01.
Template Monster is updated daily with new HTML and Flash websites. They add two or three themes for WordPress, osCommerce, PHP-Nuke and phpBB weekly. Although many templates cost the same as a yearly membership to Boxed Art or Dream Template (where you get thousands of templates), the design quality is significantly higher.
You can visit Template Monster here: http://www.templatemonster.com
2. Template World – From $49.95
Template World recently came to my attention and I have become more and more impressed with their quality of design as time goes by. Although it’s not quite as high as something you would get from Template Monster, given that many individual templates on Template Monster cost more than a 6 month membership to Template World, could you live with a little dip in quality?
It seems that Template World are beginning to focus more on the XHTML & CSS based layouts than traditional HTML. They are also bringing in some gorgeous Web 2.0 templates that are far better than the ones offered by Dream Template.
Recently Template World have introduced some WordPress and osCommerce templates and quite frankly I prefer them to the ones offered by Template Monster. Infact, I think the design quality is above what Template Monster offers.
Template World doesn’t appear to have a fixed timetable for updating their site and this can be a drawback. Sometimes they even go months without adding new templates – but when they do, the wait can usually be worth it!
You can visit Template World here: http://www.templateworld.com
1. 4Templates – From $15 Per Template
And finally, introducing the number one place to purchase templates…4Templates.com. This site has been a favourite of mine for the past 4 years or so. Not quite as cutting edge as Template Monster, but their simple, clean and attractive designs have won many fans over the years.
Where Template Monster go for impressive visual impact, 4Templates concentrate on the layout and content architecture that makes the layouts very easy to customise and a dream to work with for webmasters. Couple that with the fact that many of these templates are half the price of Template Monster and the advantages are very apparent.
For the past year or so, 4Templates have been concentrating on providing XHTML & CSS layouts as well as traditional HTML layouts with all their templates. Ths gives them a significant advantage over Template Monster because where a webmaster might find a nice template on TM, he may have to spend a lot of time turning it into valid XHTML & CSS, whereas on 4Templates the work is already done.
Unfortunately 4Templates don’t provide any templates for various software like WordPress or osCommerce and I think they are missing out on a massive market for this. Hopefully it will be something that they plan to add soon.
During 2007 I’ve seen a significant slowdown in the number of templates that are churned out. In 2005 and 2006 the site used to be updated nearly daily with new designs, but in 2007 this has slowed considerably – sometimes going more than a month without new designs being added. However, given that they have thousands of designs to choose from, finding the right one for you shouldn’t be too difficult!
You can visit 4Templates here: http://www.4templates.com