In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to look at hundreds of WordPress themes for my clients. Generally the client has a smaller budget and a WordPress pre-designed theme is an affordable alternative to a more expensive custom design.
Wordpress themes come in two categories: free and premium. The free WordPress themes are decent, and this is a great option for startups and newbies who just want a web site up fast. The downside is that the selection is fairly limited.
Premium WordPress themes, however, are generally of much higher quality and have better customization features. And there are lots more of them. So if you want a custom web site design, but can’t afford the pricetag of a custom site design, a premium WordPress theme can at least make your web site look like it’s got a custom design. Most premium WordPress themes cost about $35, and there are a bunch of good web sites that offer them. You can see a list of web sites that offer premium WordPress themes on the E-Marketing Connection web site.
At least, that’s the intention.
Recently I’ve been noticing that the vast majority of WordPress themes, even the premium ones, are all starting to look alike. They all appear to offer some variation of the following sequence: header, navigation, image slider, feature boxes, content columns, and a big thick footer. That’s the home page. Beyond that you get a gallery or portfolio page, some basic content pages with two and three columns, a contact us page with a built-in form, an about us page, a blog page, and sometimes a separate products and services page.
It would seem that all the newest WordPress themes are targeted to design firms or other creative types. If these firms or individuals are so creative, why don’t they create their own custom web site designs? Because they don’t have the skills to code it, that’s why. They’re artists, not developers. I get that. My concern is that not all people who want a pre-designed WordPress theme are creative types. Forget the gallery, my accounting firm client doesn’t need it. They don’t need the slider or the portfolio. They need nice-looking, easy-to-read content pages and a way to put stock images on those content pages — that’s all.
This is simply yet another manifestation of the shiny new object syndrome. Image sliders are the cool thing, so everyone wants one. Even one of my clients who is a career development coach wants one, even though the site doesn’t need it. It might even be a distraction from the important content on the site. It’s just cool-looking, that’s why web site owners want it. So that’s what the theme designers are making now. What will the next fad be? Whatever it is, when it comes around, these slider-heavy web sites will be overused and boring, like the pop song that plays over and over on the radio until you can’t stand hearing it any more.
It could be just me, because I look at so many of these. It’s hard to say. You, the consumer, someone who’s not “in the business” may not notice this. If so, let me know, because I want to give my clients what they want, but I also want to give them what they need, whether they realize it or not. It’s hard to argue with cool.
I read an article on Biznik yesterday about one author’s experience with a bad web designer. It was a very good article and it’s on my to do list to comment on it.
But that’s not what this post is about.
It occurred to me long after I read it that the author crafted the title of the article in pretty clever way. He’s clearly an experienced writer (or he had an experienced writer come up with his title.)
The article is about the lessons he learned about web designers, using a painful experience to illustrate them. It’s a great article topic all by itself, but the piece could have been lost by a boring title. The full title is “Formerly frustrated website virgin learns 11 things you should do when choosing your website developer” which, to me, is just a tad too long. But, I’m not an experienced article title creator, I’m just a consumer (at least in this instance).
But the point here is to illustrate for you how the title gets people to read the article. It gets your attention, makes you laugh, and makes you curious — a great combination.
Another thing to note is that the title alone does not make it. The article delivers on its promise. It’s cleverly written, humorous, and informative. It satisfies. It gives you what you expected when you read the title.
So read the article, and then let me know whether you agree.
Our EMarketingConnection.com web site has had the same “Newsflash” Drupal theme for a year, and I’ve hated it since a week after I chose and installed it.
But at the time I decided to let it go — it was done, and it worked, and I was OK with that. It allowed me to put in all the basic content I felt was needed to kick start the site, so it was “good enough.”
We have been working on a redesign since February but, like the cobbler’s children who don’t have any shoes, E-Marketing Connection has kept it’s ugly old design — until today!
The redesign is now done (although I still need to tweak a few buggy little things). I’ll be announcing it in my newsletter later today.
An unfortunate side-effect of the delay in implementing this design is that I was hesitant to really punch up the content until after the new design was put in. I honestly didn’t want to attract too many people to the site yet, so why add a bunch of content that would just get stale? Maybe that was an excuse for not doing the work? Perhaps, but whatever it was, it’s no longer an excuse .
So… now that the design is ready… now the content build-up begins in earnest.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think of the new design. Many people worked very hard on it!
I have a new client who is spending $500 a month on an advertisement in a daily newsletter. The ad basically just has the company’s logo, name, tagline, and contact information.
Clicking the ad goes to the company’s home page.
Maybe you’re thinking, “So what? Isn’t that where they should go?” Well… no, actually. And here’s why:
Back to my client… when they hired me, the first thing I did was put Google Analytics on their web site and add a landing page. Then I had their office manager contact the newsletter owner with a request to change the advertisement’s link to the new landing page.
For now the landing page is just a copy of the home page (we’re doing a redesign anyway) but at the very least we can start measuring how many people are clicking on their ad. That’s a first step.
As it turns out it’s about 30% of their existing traffic. That’s good to know. But it’s only about 3 or 4 clicks a day. That’s also good to know. We can probably improve that by changing the ad, and we can also work on a better landing page as part of the redesign.
The tools are out there, you just need to know how to use them.
For years now there have been web design firms that specialize in building sites for certain industries. For instance a lot of doctors groups get their web sites designed by “medical web site specialist” firms.
I’m not sure why this is, I suppose it’s has something to do with the specific issues that medical web sites need to consider that other sites don’t. Making appointments, billing, patient privacy laws, and whatnot, are things that not many other sites would have to deal with.
So it makes sense from both a practical sense as well as an economical sense. A firm who has already developed dozens of other web sites for your industry, whether that’s medical services or HVAC installations or sporting equipment, would be able to design your industry-specific site in less time and with less aggravation, and probably for less money.
In theory that would be a good thing.
But what I’m seeing is that all of these sites look the same. Although the colors may be different or the photos have different formats or the banner has a different graphic, or one has video and another doesn’t, the essential structure is exactly the same. Even the copy is the same… “We are proud that we have the best physicians in the region working at Metro Women’s Health Center.” Gag.
It reminds me of my housing development. There are 6 basic floor plans but an almost unlimited number of combinations of front porch styles and window frames and siding colors and landscaping and the list goes on. So when you drive down my street all the houses on first glance look different. But after you’ve lived here and driven these sames streets a hundred times you realize they’re really all the same. (Remember Mr. Potatohead?)
Maybe I only see this (back to the industry web sites) because I live in this world day in and day out. Do the every day visitors notice? Do they go to a doctors office web site to check their hours and think, “Hey I just saw a site that looked like this the other day?” No, I’m sure they don’t.
The point is that if you are getting one of these sites and you think you are getting a deal for an amazing web site, think again. It’s the same old thing churned out with different colors and photo frames and header graphics.
One more point, and it’s a pretty major one: If your content is the same as 1,000 other competing sites, you will never get any organic search engine traffic. Content needs to be unique and fresh. The best thing you could do for yourself in this situation is start keeping a blog on your site to attract traffic.
Better yet, spend a little extra money and get a custom design created by a non-industry-specific designer. It will be totally worth the price in so many ways, and most importantly, your site really will be special.
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