Using templates as a web designer is frowned upon by many in the industry despite the practice remaining pretty widespread. People think templates are an inferior product and should be avoided. However, the use of templates should depend entirely on the needs of the customers.
Professional web designers often use templates for projects that won’t require a lot of customization. Designers also use mockup templates to give clients an idea of what a finished product may look like. Templates are an easy way to convey the outcomes of a project to a client without spending hours on custom designs.
However, templates can be misused by designers, and it has led to them getting a bad reputation. We’ve covered web developers using templates in a previous article. Now let’s explore when templates are appropriate to use and the citation when web designers should avoid using templates.
If you do want to create high-powered templates that can be used across different clients I’d highly recommend checking out the no-code platform Webflow. It allows you to quickly build visually stunning templates.
Do graphic designers use templates?
Graphic designers use templates because it allows them to quickly convey the end result of a project without creating custom designs. Using templates also allows web designers to serve more customers at a cheaper rate.
Most clients don’t have a truly unique brand that is set apart from every other business. Repurposing the designs you have created for other clients makes sense, it means you don’t have to build every design from the ground up. I don’t recommend copy and pasting old designs but making use of the previous work you have done is a great idea.
Using existing graphics from sources like Freepik helps web designers finish projects ahead of time and deliver great quality designs. It also means you can lean on these resources if creating vectors is not your strong suit.
Clients with big budgets often want mockups of the finished product to sign off on it before the project begins. Low fidelity concepts and wireframes like those you can build on Balsamiq are perfect for this type of stuff. It means you can save time at the start of a project and really invest in the designs that will add the most value to your project.
For a lot of designers, no-code platforms have provided the perfect playground to bring these templates to life. All a designer has to do is create one template and they can repurpose it hundreds of times with platforms like Webflow. It’s no wonder some people are worried about Webflow replacing developers in the long term.
Why do web designers use templates?
Web designers use templates because it allows them to work quickly, reduces their costs, and opens up their services to a wider range of clients. Not everyone can afford bespoke designs. Templates allow designers to appeal to a wider market and improve efficiency.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why web designers lean on templates during projects.
In a project, budgets work two ways. The client has a budget then the designer allocates a certain amount of their time against it. That is their budget. If the designs take too long the designer either has to charge more which isn’t going to go down well with the client. Or eat into their allotted time and get less per hour.
For clients who can’t afford custom designs that are going to take a while to put together, templates are the perfect option. Not everyone is looking for bespoke designs or has the budget for them, so pre-built components or pages are a good middle ground.
When starting out it means that web designers can branch out a bit further and offer their services to more people. Building a reputation and a clientele early on is important and small budget clients will make up the majority of clients at the start.
Speed and Efficiency
Buying a template or using an existing template allows web designers to work quickly. Cutting the design time is the easiest way to speed up a project and deliver things ahead of schedule.
In contrast, making everything from scratch takes time. It is more complicated and requires a level of finesse that templates do not.
Once you have a bit of design experience under your belt it makes sense to put together templates of different sorts to improve your efficiency. Templates don’t have to be just for designs. Think how much time you would save by creating templates for client communication or process templates.
Plenty of web designers use templates because they are skillful enough to create enterprise-level bespoke designs. It takes years of practice to get to a level where you can offer your services to top companies.
Plenty of designers who are just starting out need to get clients to gain experience. They may not have many projects under their belt or have even designed anything for the web yet.
By buying a pre-built template inexperienced designers have something to go off and can learn from there. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as you are open and honest about the services being offered. Don’t sell a pre-purchased design as something you have created yourself.
How not to use templates as a web designer
As a web designer, you want to avoid cookie-cutter theme templates. You don’t want to provide web designs that look identical for each client. Or just provide a template without your client’s input.
CSS frameworks like Bootstrap got a bad reputation because people were not customizing them and every website looked identical. The same thing is happening to web designers with page builders. A lot of designers are using these platforms to speed up the process but at the same time failing to customize them at all. It is important to take elements of a project that work and reuse them. But copying entire web projects for each client is a poor use of templates.
Involving the client in the design process is crucial to the long-term success of your business. Allowing them their say guarantees you understand what they want and are able to deliver it. Don’t just ship a random template without understanding what they want. Either you are going to get poor reviews. Or you will have to do costly reworks that eat into your busy schedule. Your clients are likely to be unhappy if they realize there is nothing unique about their product.
There is nothing wrong with using templates. We’ve discussed a range of benefits and they can be used effectively. However, you must be honest. Using other web designers templates as your own is not something you should do. If you are offering a template to a client make sure they are under that. Don’t sell your work as bespoke but then order a cookie-cutter theme from another designer online.
Is using templates cheating?
Overall using templates is not cheating. It’s an industry-wide practice utilized by developers everywhere to save time and money. It allows them to improve their efficiency and optimize workflows to get things done.
Professional web designers will use their experience to find out what works for them. When they get an idea of things that help, they double down on these. Templates are one of the tools that can be used to help. When used correctly they improve outcomes rather than hinder them. Taking on client feedback and crafting designs that fit the needs of their clients means that web designers are doing their job right. Using templates as a strong base for a project means they don’t have to start from scratch. It allows designers to modify and adapt designs to fit a client’s needs without the hassle of making everything custom.
As long as the designer is transparent with what they are doing then using templates is not cheating. The client doesn’t have to understand every step of your process and probably won’t care either. But don’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Be honest with the service you are providing. If you are using templates to offer the client better value because custom designs are out of their price range, then let them know. It’s also a great way to upsell. In contrast, lying and then being found out would be disastrous for the client relationship and your reputation.
What software do web designers use for templates?
Online tools have come a long way and made it easier than ever for web designers to create templates. Software improves the efficiency of the design process and allows designers to utilize components across different projects. Wireframes have also become incredibly popular and the products are used extensively throughout the industry.
- Canva – an online design and publishing tool that has done a fantastic job of knocking Adobe off the top spot for designing graphics. It’s great for newbies and experienced people alike.
- Photoshop – the king of creating wireframes and the original templating tool for designers. It’s been around a long time, takes some getting used to but is a fantastic tool.
- Adobe XD – great option for those wanting to create vectors and has become an incredibly popular prototyping software for mobile and web apps.
- InVision – used by tonnes of designers in the industry and is great for collaboration within the wider technical team. Particularly useful for those wanting to provide exceptional user experiences.
- Webflow – Unlike the other apps, Webflow allows designers to quickly bring templates to life and actually show their clients exactly how the page will function.
Using templates is common practice among web designers and should be something everyone does to leverage their time. It doesn’t mean you have to copy and paste someone else’s design or use other designers’ work. You can create your own templates that you use as a base to build projects off. Each designer has their own style and keeping pre-made components in your back pocket is a great way to establish your style over a long period of time.
If you are going to use templates make sure to do it in the right way. Be open and honest, and provide good service to your clients regardless.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.