I recently helped judge a competition for the best law firm Web site, sponsored by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. In looking over the several dozen sites that entered the competition, it was hard to miss the fact that a large portion of the sites were created by one firm — a vendor that specializes in building sites for law firms. The sites created by this vendor were really similar. If I were in the market for a lawyer and decided to do my research online (and who wouldn’t?), I’d have a hard time discerning any difference between competitors.
My point isn’t that templated sites are bad, or that employing this type of vendor is a bad thing. The lesson here is that if you work with any vendor that’s building a site for you, and they offer some sort of canned template service, don’t use it. Hire your own designer. Pay a photographer for some custom shots. Stand out.
Happily, there were firms that entered the competition that “got it”. These sites were good sites, but they stood out all the more when contrasted with their template-bound competition.