Okay, okay!  I know that most business people hire web designers based on how the designer’s other sites look, on friends’ recommendations, on price, on schedule, and on phase of the moon.  Nowhere on the list of standard qualifications is a designer’s adherence to standards and their ability to make a site easy to maintain.

I sense that starting a crusade for standards and maintainability in web designer selection would be losing battle.  First, it’s hard to care about what you cannot see.  And, more importantly, clients of web designers generally don’t have a way to know if a site is well done or not.

File listing in Dreamweaver shows templates as .dwt

dwt Template Files in a Dreamweaver Site

Still let me give you one question to ask your designer.  Ask them if they will use templates to create your site.

Why do you care if the designer uses templates?  Because templates will save you a lot of money later on when you change your site.

Templates specify common text and structures.  Things like the banner on the top of your page, the footer on the bottom with the copyright information, the navigation menu, and the width, color, and fonts of the columns on the page.

When designer starts a website with a template, they design, write, and arrange the common elements one time.  The template also specifies what part of the layout and information will change on each individual page.

The designer creates pages from the template by updating the changeable area with what makes that page unique.  They change the common area of all pages by editing the template.

I recently started to do Search Engine Optimization work on a great looking site with 15 pages.  To attract Google I needed to add tags to the navigation bars that all pages shared.  I also wanted to update the footer, and add information to the page banner that appears throughout the site.  If the site had used templates, I would have only had to edit these areas one time.  It would have taken 15 minutes to edit the template, and then I would have updated the common area on all pages with one SAVE.

But, this site — and most of the web sites I have been asked to work on — didn’t use templates.  The designer created the site’s first page with all the look and navigation. Then the designer repeatedly COPIED that first page to new files where the designer edited the information for all the other pages.  To change the common areas on this non-template  site, I had to edit 15 different pages.  The changes took a lot more time (and client money) than they would have if there had been been a template.

As a business owner, maybe you don’t care or even want to how your original designer create your site.  You don’t care, that is, until you want to update the site! Insist that your site is designed using templates so that your able to change your site without a lot of developer time and your money.