Are you bored with your website? Are you bored with everyone else’s website? If you’ve started to notice that almost every website looks the same, you’re not alone. Tons of people these days are surfing the web, feeling that odd sense of déjà vu wherever they go. And we can thank the web template industry for this eerie phenomena.
Template designers aren’t really to blame
Although template designers are responsible for creating the massive sea of templates that all look the same, we can’t really blame them. They just design their templates based on whatever’s popular at the time to keep up with the demand – to ensure their sales. And because of this, if you’ve seen one website, you’ve seen them all. But the cycle seems to be an endless loop of repetition with no way forward.
When a trend emerges, designers make more templates that look like slight variations of existing templates. Soon, most of the templates on the market look the same despite being designed by different people. And since those templates are the only available options, people buy the ones they like the best. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want something different.
Can templates ever provide a unique design?
Back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there were plenty of unique and creative web templates available that were built in HTML and CSS. They were created by professional graphic artists in Photoshop, then sliced up and packaged as a template that you could simply upload to your website through FTP or a file manager.
These templates have now been replaced with monotony. But even when you start with a template that looks like everyone else’s, you can still innovate by adding your own custom graphics to generate unique designs.
For example, Hloom.com is full of unique graphics drawn in a specific style that tell a story on each page. These graphics shape the whole site and give it a unique flair. This is a wonderful contrast to the majority of websites that rely on boring stock photos.
Web designers – from graphic artists to programmers
In the 1990’s, website templates were designed primarily by graphic designers. Today, they’re mostly designed by programmers. And thanks to WordPress’ popularity, the majority of templates are written in PHP (because WordPress is written in PHP).
This switch occurred when websites went from basic HTML (automatically generated by Photoshop using the slice tool) to a dynamic display of widgets, and other components that only function when programmed. While you can still slice up a template in Photoshop, you can’t make a WordPress template without knowing at least a little programming.
How did programming become part of layouts?
Widgets and other programmed components like slideshows, comments, and discussion forums have always been a part of websites. The difference is that back in the day, they were added to an existing website a-la-carte after the design was completed. Today, they’re inextricably embedded into the very design of the website itself.
Modern web templates are built for stock photos
One of the biggest and most overlooked trends almost all websites have fallen into, because of these templates, is the use and overuse of stock photos and homepage sliders full of said stock photos.
In the beginning, stock photos served a purpose for people who had no imagery of their own. But over the years, stock photo companies have become repositories for the same boring scenes submitted by hundreds of photographers.
How many times do you see an image of a woman sitting at a desk with a headset on or a man in a business suit smiling at a company meeting? Or people eating salads and laughing?
If you’re going to use imagery across your website, it should represent your business specifically. Stock photos may be cheap and the image quality might be amazing, but that doesn’t mean they add value to your website.
The fate of the internet lies with template designers
If we’re going to get out of this rut of monotony, it’s really up to the template designers to be innovative. Many businesses can’t afford to have a custom website built, so they’re going to use whatever they can find. If all they have available to them is a collection of templates that look like every other website, the cycle will just repeat. More people will buy the same templates and template designers will think it means that layout is popular, so they’ll keep making more templates that look the same.
Hopefully, as more people start to find ways to be creative and add a personal touch to their websites, template designers will get the hint that it’s time to take web design to the next level and bring back some (mobile friendly) personality.