Designing a website has a rather different meaning today than it had some years ago.
Prior to the widespread use of Content Management Systems (CMS) and online site building tools like Weebly and Wix, being a Web designer really meant something. A Web designer would lay out all the fine details of a site, often using a combination of Photoshop and Dreamweaver, and then delve into HTML and CSS code to make it all work correctly.
Nowadays, designing a website is much easier, as most modern sites are built around CMS platforms and themes or templates.
Let’s talk templates…
Now you know that many modern websites are built around templates, you may be tempted to question why there aren’t hundreds of sites out there that look exactly the same?
The first reason why this isn’t the case is that there are, quite literally, tens of thousands of themes out there. Yes, there are millions of websites, but the chances of you coming across two that look identical are near zero.
This is because website themes are usually highly customisable. Simply changing colours and fonts is enough to make one site using the same theme as another look completely different. Furthermore, most modern themes offer far more customisation possibilities than just fonts or colours.
By the time you’ve uploaded your own photos, logos and backgrounds, and played with all the options available with a typical theme, you can be pretty sure there won’t be another site out there that looks identical.
Here are a few themes we particularly like. These are all for the WordPress CMS platform. If you’d like to learn more about WordPress, you can reach a detailed tutorial by clicking here.
Avada is (at the time of writing) the world’s best-selling WordPress theme, boasting over 60,000 downloads. However, this doesn’t mean that there are 60,000 sites out there that all look the same!
Avada is so customisable that’s it’s essentially a website construction kit within itself, with almost unlimited layouts, fonts and colours. At just $55, it’s an absolute bargain.
Sahifa is another well-renowned theme with thousands of downloads.
Although Sahifa is marketed as a theme for blogs and magazines, its abilities are practically limitless. It even integrates with WooCommerce in case you want to add an online shop.
As with all the themes recommended here, Sahifa is also fully responsive, so it looks great on mobile devices.
If you want one theme that really does it all, Jupiter fits the bill.
Jupiter can handle anything from one-page websites to enormous fully-featured portals, and one of the key benefits of this theme are the high quality video tutorials that guide you through the array of functionality that could be otherwise overwhelming.
All of the themes above link through to ThemeForest, where you can view full demos and purchase the themes if you wish.
So DO you need a designer?
Just because it’s simple to build a modern website around a theme, it doesn’t mean it’s easy.
That sounds like something of a contradiction, so let us explain:
For a start, it’s easy to drown in options, especially when it comes to complex themes like the ones detailed above. You do still need a good eye for design and (especially) colour, as the freedom modern themes offer can allow you to easily create an unattractive “dog’s dinner” if you’re not careful.
With this in mind, it’s worth being honest about your strengths. If you’re not design-minded and good with colours, perhaps leave these decisions to someone more suitable, or consider buying in a little help.
Buying in help doesn’t mean knocking on the door of your local Web designer. As you will quickly see from the array of tutorials here at Make a Website, the basics of launching a website are not complicated at all. Unless you’re a serious technophobe, we’d suggest taking the time to do it yourself.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy in a little expertise from outside, and to do so we’d recommend using freelancing platforms such as oDesk and eLance.
These platforms allow you to post simple job requirements and access a global workforce of professional freelancers. As an example, you could probably find someone who will design a professional looking logo for you for less than US$50 – and get some help with a corporate colour scheme at the same time.
By handing over the elements you’re not comfortable with, you can get the best of both worlds: an inexpensive site that you understand how to maintain, but with a core design that looks highly professional.
We have a huge selection of resources for you here at Make a Website. Here are some places we suggest you look next:
1. Our article on designing a website for 2014 goes into some specifics on modern trends and important priorities, such as making sure your site works well on mobile devices.
2. Our guide to making a website from scratch talks about three of the most popular modern website creation methods, and links through to detailed tutorials for each.
3. Our article on the cost of modern websites will tell you how much you should expect to pay to launch and maintain your site.
Image source: threebrackets.com