Using a web site template right out of the box is a very common mistake new web designer’s make. One of the cool things about the web is that it’s so visual. Using a web site design template can save any new web developer a lot of time and effort. But like any tool, you can get into trouble if you don’t pay attention. Color combinations, layout, and graphics are the key design elements in any web site template. Each web site should be designed around the subject matter, ease of use, and accomplish any special goals or end result. A lot of new web site designers get lost in the visual effects, which can have negative effects on user friendliness and search engine optimization. If you look at some of the most popular web sites, the common element is simplicity and ease of navigation. There are few dancing bears, flash intros, or exploding special effects. And almost everyone has text navigation for the most part. They may have some very well designed graphics, and a few design elements but keep it simple for the user. User friendliness and easy navigation should adhere to the two-click rule. This is a simple rule that implies any user should be able to find what they want on any given web site in two clicks. With the short attention span and impatient attitude of most surfers, you need to give them what they want fast. You normally only have about 5 seconds to grab their attention. I use templates a lot to save time and effort on a new design. Some I’ve developed myself, some I’ve bought that give me at least a 70% solution. They may have some graphics that go with my subject matter and/or some colors and layout that suit my purpose for the web site. But they also may be missing some key elements. Most web site templates have great visual effects and good color combinations. But many lack several important elements for both users and our friends the search engines. Here’s a list of common mistakes I see all the time when a web designer uses a web site template. 1. Navigation – Menu issues 2. No Sitemap 3. Ignoring the fold position 4. No H1 or H2 designated headline and sub headlines Graphic, pull down, popup or other methods of displaying menus can look good but sometimes confuse the user and are invisible to the search engine bots. These are two good reasons to use a text menu somewhere that show all necessary navigation links. Sitemaps are important for the same reason as above. Both users and search engines can see a snapshot of everything on your web site and get to it quickly. This improves your chances to get indexed quickly and gives the user that two click ability. The fold position is where the bottom of the monitor breaks off the view of the page. All important information should be displayed above that line if at all possible. Don’t make the user scroll if it’s not necessary. Any navigation, special links, attention getters, or critical information should always display above the fold line. H1 and H2 designate important info to the search engine bot. A common good search engine optimization is to put your keywords in the first headline that the user sees. Of course the headline should also induce the reader to continue to read the web page. It’s pretty easy to fix all these issues during the initial design stage. Even though I’ve created 100’s of web sites I still use a checklist. The devils in the details and everything you can do to make it easy for the user and the search engines, the more successful your web site will be. A web site template can be a big time saver but you need to insure that the end result has all the necessary features both users and the search engines. Make your web site both user and search engine friendly by making these small changes or additions.