If there’s one industry that the term ‘never say never’ applies to, it’s the digital communications industry.
The pace of change is just so great that it’s almost impossible to predict where it might head.
It wasn’t that long ago that the industry thought that websites would always have to be built ‘from the ground up’ (essentially computer code writing or programming). Whilst some website infrastructure could be copied as the basis to a new website, there would always be a need for some ‘development’ to meet the specific requirements of clients.
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Well that old chestnut was put to bed around 15 years ago when the smarter developers realised that most businesses had quite similar requirements for their website functionality. It was really just the design (appearance and navigation) and content (words and pictures) that needed to be customised to the specific requirements of the client organisation.
No development required
This development realised the emergence of ‘Software as a Service’ website platforms where all the technology an organisation would ever need was essentially rented or licensed to them while custom design and content could easily be added.
These developments sprung from a fundamental of the digital world: Anything digital can be duplicated as many times as you like for no additional cost.
So a website technology infrastructure could in turn be duplicated for essentially nothing at all.
No design required
Some of these website platforms even offered low cost or even free basic design ‘templates’ – a generic look that could have your logo and colour scheme added to provide a basic level of customisation.
A free design template from 2011
But these design templates were frowned upon by web design professionals as a cheap and nasty means of scrimping on a distinctive, exclusive and therefore superior custom design.
And really you could see their point. If you really wanted your business to look distinctive and professional, a custom-designed website was really the only way to go.
Still, for those on a budget it at least provided their website with some level of professionalism, even if it looked reasonably similar to a thousand or more other businesses which had used the same template.
A free design template from 2013
But like custom website development before it, custom website design is now being challenged by a new wave of distinctive, impressive and fully featured templates.
Website templates go to the next level
In the last few years, basic but serviceable website templates have given way to all-singing, all-dancing digital spectaculars.
And we are not just talking about appearance here.
Today’s website templates come not only with impressive, distinctive looks but with a range of page layouts, animation effects, site ‘infrastructures’, mobile-friendly responsive versions and functionality like forms and vouchers that once would have cost many thousands of dollars to create.
When I say thousands of dollars I mean well into five figures.
A recent free design template
These developments mean that the smallest business is now able to create a website that looks and operates like a big business website for a fraction of its former cost.
And most visitors will never be able to pick that it’s a free or cheap template.
This isn’t to say custom design is dead, far from it.
But what it does is raise the bar on what is an acceptable level of design to website visitors, whilst making the entry level to a pro website even more affordable than ever before.
And to the reported 60% of Australian businesses that still don’t have their own website, the excuses are now becoming even thinner.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.