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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Everyone Wants To Be A Special Snowflake

Near the start of my web development career, one of my main clients had a grand plan. They were producing numerous sites for a niche industry, and thought they could drastically reduce costs and turnaround time by offering a range of site templates for customers to choose from. The customer would know exactly what they’re getting, many had very similar branding and services anyway, and there’d be little work involved; surely everyone would be happy?

It didn’t work out. For one thing, they drastically underestimated the amount of work required to create a high-quality, reusable template, reacting with shock when I and others quoted anything from a few days to a week or two (“Rival X has someone knocking out two templates a day!”).

But the main problem was that even customers with tight budgets and no eye for design didn’t want to pay for something off the shelf. They each considered their own business to be unique and worthy of special attention, and so it soon became clear the plan was a non-starter.

Nowadays there are some great-looking templates available at decent prices, but businesses still usually prefer to pay for something bespoke (even if the end result may not always be as polished). And you can’t easily commoditise something that’s in demand precisely because it’s not seen as a commodity…


isn't it about identity, corporate image, branding, marketing, and communication?

olivier, 18th Oct, 4:51pm

Yes, but the interesting thing was that the businesses involved put little thought or effort into those things (most of their branding etc. was derived from franchise material), yet were still bothered by the idea of a pre-packaged site.

So I suppose they weren't that picky about the final result, but wanted to be flattered by more individual attention in the development process.

Matt Round, 19th Oct, 8:14am

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