Template Websites Grow Up

Oh, the glories of evolution! Where once we were crawling on our bellies through a sticky swamp of code, treacherous updating processes, and browser-compatibility muck, we have joyously reached the dawn of a new age in website design.

Behold the rise of intuitive site-building platforms that actually work! 

This is no small miracle.

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The Codacious Period

Kelly and I both worked with HTML in the early days. It was cool for a while – nice to be on the cutting edge. But soon enough, with growth of the internet and the rise of scripting, many designers came to a juncture where a choice had to be made between going full-techno or returning to our roots in visual design. For a while we dabbled in Flash and CSS, but both eventually stuck with the more familiar road. Then, when called upon to design websites, we often partnered with experienced developers who were up-to-date on the rapidly changing world of coding, scripting and web construction (what’s called the back end). These projects typically provided good results for clients, but the process was frequently long, tedious and costly. 

At that larval stage in internet history, not only was site-building much more complex; site design was also far less standardized. As with all new tools, experimentation with layouts, navigation structures and “special effects” translated into a lot of people bending over backwards to repeatedly try and reinvent the entire web experience, often in a very ineffective manner.

Then things began to slowly improve.

A Little Better, A Little Faster

The advent of Content Management System (CMS) platforms such as Wordpress and Joomla, along with improvements in web-design software packages, represented a big leap forward. However, even just a couple of years ago, our experiences with these development platforms were consistently disappointing. The promises of ease, simplicity and malleability just never fully came through. Yes, things were better, but projects with any degree of real customization still required copious help from techies to fix “mysterious” errors and fine-tune sites to everyone’s satisfaction. Life may have been a bit simpler for the coders and development pros, but content designers still lacked autonomy.

Happily, we have finally crawled out of that swamp. 

Clean, Mean & Lean

Over the past year, using Weebly Pro as our preferred drag-and-drop development platform, Flight 9 has created several websites, each involving substantial customization, without the need to hire developers. It has been a sea change for us to be able to happily offer this much more affordable and streamlined service.

Whereas once upon a time creating a website was roughly a 50/50 split between content development and technical construction, instead we can now focus 95% of our energy on making sure each site looks great, navigates intuitively, and communicates effectively. Integrated small-screen optimization and a few SEO tools are included, too. Our clients get more bang for the buck and end up with sites far less likely to break or need regular technical updates. 

Website templates, once considered the playground of hacks and high-school students, have now grown into fully dynamic and customizable tools that can increase efficiency without sacrificing creativity or brand integrity. Website structures and navigation are now appropriately standardized, largely eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel and rethink each site design from scratch. 

Don’t get me wrong; developers are our friends. It was developers, of course, who gave us these shiny new tools. And not all needs can be met with templates. Many sites that require extensive multimedia, database integration, high volume e-retail or other complexities definitely must involve a savvy developer, and probably even several of them. Even Weebly (or Wix or Highwire) sites sometimes require minor adjustments from back-end pros. The triumph is that we can now expect this to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Thanks for reading!  
– Melissa