Find Web Developers
Find Web Developers

How to Choose a Web Developer to Create Your Online Template Site

Introduction
There are many web sites that offer you an inexpensive way to create a website with their template system. The templates exist on their servers, and the resulting website is hosted within their system. This is different from getting a template that you move into your computer to create your website. Some common places that you can go for these sites are Yahoo, Network Solutions, Volution and, possibly, even your webhost.

Online template systems are found online, and, typically offer you an “easy” and inexpensive way to build your website. Notice the quotations about easy. The actual process of building and maintaining the online template site might not feel like it’s easy and inexpensive. The reality is that, in most cases, it really is easier to use an online template system than it is to start a new website from scratch. Also, you can get a site up much more quickly because the internal structure and background images of the site are already done.

One downside is that because the site is held completely within a different system, you can’t just take a copy of it, if you decide to move your site. The only parts of the site that are yours are your own images and text. Another downside is that the site is only changeable within the areas of the pages that they have set the programming to allow the text or image changes. Some online template systems allow more changes than others. Finally, while these sites offer many professional quality graphics for your use, those same graphics are available to their other clients.

How Online Templates Work
Most everything that you add to your online template website is through a normal online form. You enter your titles, prices, image descriptions, paragraphs, etc through a form. You upload your product images through a Browse button. In other words, you don’t have to do (or know) any coding. You fill out the forms and the pages are created by the programming.

However, using these systems is not as “bingo presto” as the advertisement say it is. There is no getting around the fact that even small websites are complicated. They are a combination of code and design and images and photography and text and, marketing.. It is not realistic to expect that a unique website can be built with a couple of clicks. Online web templates have to give you a place to add elements that will show up on every page, such as your banner and contact information. They also have to deal with your content pages. If they decide ahead of time what pages you get, you might want those changed. What if you want some of the content on the pages to be formatted your way, instead of their way? It is possible that they will give you a place to add your HTML code, but then you have to know the code. The templates have to allow you to add images, but do those images go where you want them. And, if you supply the images, who will create them?

Some online templates that look great, only look great in certain browsers and at certain screen resolutions. I have looked at the coding, for some online templates, and found many coding errors, which some browsers can deal with and others not. One situation was when an acquaintance sent out the web address of a relative’s new website. I opened it in one browser, and the middle of the page had sunk below the first screen on most pages. When I checked the code, I found many CSS errors – but you have to know the code to understand what happened.

If you want an online shopping cart, you will also have to have photos of all your products, product descriptions, prices, shipping information, tax information, your merchant account information for credit card processing, etc. If you have hundreds of products, just the task of preparing the information for your shopping cart can be quite lengthy.

Finding the Right Developer for your Template Site
Some people who sign up for a template site, do just fine figuring out the system on their own. Others are completely lost. I have been asked to help with a Yahoo template site and a Volusion template site. Even with years of web development experience, I did not find either system intuitive to use. In fact, I was surprised at how badly they labeled the links to go through the systems and how badly they explained the development steps. I did find that Volusion had excellent technical support by phone, but it would have been better if they had just created a good interface for regular people instead of for their own techs.

So, the developer for your online template site should have some experience with online templates (as opposed to just building sites from scratch.) Before you sign up for an online template system, ask the developer which template systems work best. If they already have successful experiences with a certain product, it will save a lot of time ($$$) to use that system. The developer will also be able to tell you the shortcomings of different systems – but not all systems as they come and go.

Your developer should also have great communication skills to show you how to weed through the backend mess. In most cases, you don’t want to depend on your developer for every little website change in the future. That’s why you are using the templates in the first place! But, ask your developer if he or she will be available to give you a hand, if something unexpected comes up.

Your developer should also understand how websites work. Such a developer will know what ought to be available in the forms and will have a better idea what to hunt for. The developer will also know what to ask technical support, who may or may not communicate well. For example, by calling technical support, I found out that Volusion won’t allow you to have more than one domain name unless you register those domain names through them. For that client, I had the second domain name pointed through their registrar, by-passing the online template system. But, I had to have the background to know that it should be available and that there had to be another way around the block.

Finally, it is not unusual for an online template system to go down (broke.) That means that your website will disappear. And, as I mentioned before, you can’t pick it up and move it. So, have a backup plan for a new website.

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