Internet users will spend 3-5 seconds at a website before deciding to either stay, or try elsewhere. Take heed of this fact and realize that a website with great content can still be left behind without a professional, attractive look. Unfortunately, designing and coding a great website isn’t always easy; it requires a good deal of creativity and knowledge, which a lot of us just don’t have. Web design companies can charge per hour, more than many people make in a day for just this reason. But there are other options, and this is where website templates come in. They allow you to take advantage of other people’s creativity and expertise while paying a fraction of what you would (around $50). However, this drastic price cut does come with some strings attached, and you will need to do a few basic things to get your template-based website ready for prime time.
Your first task with a template will be to insert your content and format it properly. Take a look at the template and your content side by side and determine what should go where, and on which page (homepage, contact, about us, etc.). Then, open up one page (.htm or .html file) at a time in your favorite text editor, and copy and paste in your content. Make sure to save the file with .htm or .html as the extension and take a look in a browser. It probably won’t look perfect at first, so try playing around with paragraph length and font-size. You can do this by adding a simple font size style into your paragraph tags. You’ll also need to change the text of the links (also known as anchor text) in the navigation to reflect the flow of your website. If you’ve never worked with HTML or CSS, this step may take you a few hours, but this is a trade-off you should be a little more willing to make after spending $50 for a professionally designed website.
After you’re done adding content there is still work to do. Even if you get lucky and you’re happy with the look and images your template comes with, you should think about replacing them with your own. One of the unfortunate facts about web templates is that their purchase carries no copyright, and therefore many websites can use the same ones. So, changing colors, and replacing images can prevent your website from being almost identical to a competitor’s. Assuming you purchased a template to save money, buying an expensive image editing program would defeat the purpose. So, unless you already own an image editing suite like Adobe Photoshop, try out GIMP (http://www.gimp.org), a free, open source image editing program that offers most of the same capabilities. At this point a few really simple changes can make a world of difference. Web templates often make wide use of stock photos, so find an image that relates more closely to your content, make it the same size as the one it’s replacing, and your website will have a whole new feel. Editing the color of the background, and changing the color of navigational buttons are two more changes that are quick, easy, and give your website a new look.
The last thing you’ll need to do is find a domain name, and web host to get your site online. There are thousands of web hosting companies online, and the vast majority of them will offer domain name registration. Make sure to look for one with an easy application to upload your files, high bandwidth, and e-mail addresses included. Go check one out, and get your professional, attractive website online quickly, easily, and for a fraction of the price your competitors.