Cookie Cutter Websites – The Reality

The last couple of years I’ve gotten calls from small business owners wanting a website…but not a cookie cutter website. This is a term that usually comes up because they went to a large design firm who quoted them a price in the five+ figure range.  For a small business of twenty or less employees this is a pretty big expenditure.  But the term “cookie cutter” almost always comes up in a negative fashion.

What are Cookie Cutter Websites?

Cookie Cutter Websites are often predefined templates or themes that allow little to no customization; you get what you get.  They are usually offered by various hosting companies.  However, many people take that a step further and refer to any template or theme that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or less.

The reality:

All websites are essentially cookie cutter.  They all follow a set of standards no matter what development platform is used.  Whether your site is developed with HTML or on a CMS platform like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal they all share a common framework and set of standards.

Design and Usability Standards haven’t changed much in the last decade or so.  Take a look at some of the most popular websites.  You’ll see the navigation in the same places, top, left or right.  They’re using common type faces/fonts to make it easy to read and the layout is generally similar.  Even the buttons share a common design standard.

What really makes them different?  The graphics and color scheme and that’s about it, yet even those adhere to certain standards.

The sobering reality:

WordPress comes with a set of Themes when first installed on your site that many design firms use as a starting point for their development process.  They will change various elements to suit your needs but the framework will remain the same.

This is actually a fairly common practice in the WordPress and other developer communities, so don’t feel like you are being taken advantage of.  In some cases the developer will change the theme a great deal, but that is usually a very costly venture.

Why use Themes or Templates?

For the small business with less than a five figure (or high four figure) budget themes can be a tremendous tool.  If you use WordPress for your website there are literally tens of thousands of themes available, free and paid.  But they all have some differences.  Those differences are usually behind the scenes at the administrative end of your site.

Most paid themes offer a great deal of customization and include a certain amount of plug-ins as well.  The price of paid themes can range from $10 to $150 and the flexibility for customization is usually relative to the price.  Free themes will offer less customization and only a few plug-ins if any.


The point is that many of these themes and templates can be of great value to a business with a tight budget.  They can offer the ability to be unique and still be within budget.  If you find a developer that is willing to work with you and your chosen theme it can be a tremendous benefit.