Whether you are focused on launching a new corporate website or on developing your professional reputation, the marketing opportunities provided by the internet are less limited by budget than they are by imagination.
Once upon a time establishing your corporate presence online required hiring expensive designers, often operating in a “silo”, to create a company website. If they deigned to include SEO elements like the title tag, description and keywords (before these were spammed into oblivion as SEO markers) you were lucky. If not, then chances are you would eventually get round to hiring a search engine optimizer when you got tired of waiting for anyone to find your beautiful site.
While the designers may have done an excellent job in providing for the overall Content Marketing needs of these specific site types, the template has not been created to persuasively showcase your specific content.
Often, in those days, the website developers worked independently from the marketing communications team. Website development was usually outsourced and emphasis placed on the overall look of the site rather than how it fulfilled marketing requirements. This was (and is) a mistake. The days of “brochure” websites are over; a powerful website needs to be based on a solid Content Marketing strategy with strong brand messaging, social media components, well tested landing pages, lead forms, and engaging original content.
Are Free Templates Appropriate?
It’s true that there are some great templates on WordPress and the other CMS platforms and they are generally quite customizable, but without the experience of a good web designer you may find it hard to judge which of the themes on offer are best suited to your business. Once you have settled on a particular theme, without some web marketing experience you may not know how to maximize its business potential.
Consider that the free templates and themes available have been designed to fit a general need, whether that be eCommerce, travel marketing, news publishing etc. While the designers may have done an excellent job in providing for the overall Content Marketing needs of these specific site types, the template has not been created to persuasively showcase your specific content.
Using one of these off-the-shelf designs depends on shoehorning your content in to fit the framework provided. Of course some flexibility is built in to all WordPress designs but the ability to move widgets around pales in comparison to having your website designed from the ground up, using your own desired strategies and tactics. A good web designer will listen to your requirements and ‘design with the end in mind‘.
A less critical point but also one to consider is that when choosing a free template, it is wise to look at the number of previous downloads. The more popular it is, then the more stable it is likely to be. If only a handful people are downloading it then it quite likely has coding issues or other problems. This is clearly a contradiction here; for your business website you want to choose a template that will make a statement and stand out from the crowd and yet, to choose the better template you should go with the one that has been downloaded many thousands of times before.
An experienced web designer can either build you a new corporate site from scratch or make use of the many functional benefits offered by one of today’s web publishing platforms. In either case he or she will be drawing on established principles of site accessibility, usability and design and their impact on visitor engagement and taking in to account the elements that you have outlined as key from the outset.
At Webdirexion, we develop exclusively on the WordPress platform because it offers great flexibility in matching functions to Content Marketing goals. There are thousands of plugins out there which address all sorts of marketing needs; everything from facilitating the Content Marketing tactic of surfacing Popular Posts (which also helps with SEO value for internal links) to enabling lead capture and encourage customer interactivity. Unfortunately, just like plugins can be poorly programmed, so can templates. That’s a major reason we stick to only well proven plugins and develop our themes on the popular Thematic theme framework for WordPress.
A website is not the same as a company brochure.
Translating your print marketing material to the digital medium is not as simple as setting up a website to reflect the pages of your corporate literature. Unless you have an understanding of the dynamics of site architecture and accessibility and the seemingly minor aspects of web design that have a major impact on the visitor (like a little extra white space and whether the image should float right or left) then frankly, although it is entirely possible for you build your own company website using the free tools provided by the WordPress, it is not advisable.
Whatever short term saving you make will be far outweighed by a poor ROI and time lost on an inefficient and ineffective website.