Do You Need a Web Editor If You Use Your Web Host's Free Website Templates?

And Precautions to Take Before Using the Free Template


Do You Need a Web Editor If You Use Your Web Host's Free Website Templates?

by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com

A short while ago, one of my visitors asked me if she used a web host that provided free website templates, whether she would still need a web editor. Since the web host provided these site design templates for her site, she became confused as to whether the term "web host" and "web editor" were synonymous.

I will try to clear up the confusion here, as well as mention some precautions you need to take before using any web host's free templates.

Note: This article attempts to clarify a few terms frequently used in webmaster jargon. If you are planning to create your own website, you should also read How to Create / Make a Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide which takes you through all the steps needed to start your own website. That article also explains numerous terms that confuse newcomers.

What is a Web Host?

A web host is a company that has one or more computers permanently connected to the Internet. Those computers run a special type of software that allow any documents placed on them to be viewed by anyone on the Internet. For example, the article that you are reading now is placed on the computer of one such web host, which is why you can read it online.

There are many web hosts in the world. They usually charge a small monthly fee and in return, provide you some space on their computer where you can place the documents that make up your website.

What is a Web Editor?

A web editor is basically a special computer program used by people to create websites.

Just as you use a special type of program called a word processor (like Microsoft Word or Office) to type printed documents (like letters), you need a special type of program called a web editor to type Internet documents. Such documents are known as "web pages". Together, all the web pages stored in a particular location constitute a "website". For example, the web page you are reading is one of many located on a website known as thesitewizard.com.

There are many web editors around, including free ones that you can find on thefreecountry.com's Free Web Editors page.

If you're thinking of using either Dreamweaver or one of the other web editors, you may want to read the following (free) online tutorials to help you get started.

Obviously you don't have to read all of them. Just pick the tutorial relevant to the software that you'll be using. For example, if you're using Dreamweaver CS 5.5, just read the Dreamweaver CS 5.5 Tutorial.

What is a Website Template?

Some web hosts, as part of their effort to attract new webmasters, provide website templates for your use (if you become and remain their customer). They may advertise this as "free web templates" or "free web design" or something like that.

Basically, a website template is just a design for your website. An example will, hopefully, make this clear. Take a look at the pages on thesitewizard.com. For example, click to any of the other pages on thesitewizard.com, such as one of the web editor tutorials linked to above, or my article on What is HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and Perl? Do I Need to Learn Them to Create a Website? or anything else.

Notice that all the pages here share a common design. At the top of the left column on every page is thesitewizard.com's logo. Below that is a search field where you can type in queries to find articles answering your question. Underneath that is a list of menu buttons leading to the main categories on the site. On the right column is the article itself. No matter which page you click, you will encounter this familiar design.

This common design across the whole site is the result of my creating a particular design template for the site, and using that template as the basis of every page. To put it another way, every page shares the same design (with only the content that changes from page to page) because I use a fixed template for my website.

When web hosts say they provide you with web templates to choose from, it means they provide you with different designs from which you can choose one to use as the basis of all your web pages. In most cases, if not all, you also have to use their online software to create and maintain your website in order to use those templates. That is to say, you will not need to use your own web editor to create your site. In fact, chances are that you will not be able to use your own web editor even if you wanted to. The web host usually requires you to log into your website using your web browser (that is, the computer program that you're using now to read this web page), and create your website from there.

To avoid misunderstanding, even when web hosts provide free website templates for you to use, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're forced to use them. For commercial web hosts, free templates are often just extra features that you can use if you wish. If you prefer, you can just use an ordinary web editor like what I mentioned above.

(And before you ask, my template is not provided by my web host or anybody. It's just a simple template I created. In fact, if you use any one of my tutorials mentioned above, you will also learn how to create your own unique template for your website.)

And the Answer is...

Now that we've established the meaning of all the individual terms, let me unambiguously answer the original question, in case you weren't able to infer the answer from my explanations above.

If you're using your web host's free templates, in most cases, you won't need or even be able to use a web editor.

Important Precaution to Take Before Using Your Web Host's Templates

Before you use the templates provided in your web hosting package, you should take the following, very important, precaution. It is actually a rephrasing of one of the main points in the article "Is It Better to Use an Online Site Builder or a Standalone Web Editor?".

Make sure that you have a licence to use the template for your site even when you leave that web host.

That is to say, be sure that you read the licence (or "license" if you use American English) terms for the use of the free website templates before you commit to using it. Many web hosts impose certain restrictions on the use of their templates. For example, one common restriction is that you can only use that design (template) if your website continues to be hosted with that web host.

What this restriction means is that the free template that they offer may only be used by your site as long as you continue to place your site on that host. While this may not seem like an onerous term to you now, it will cause you problems down the road. No web host is perfect. None. When you first start your site with a web host, you're basically taking a risk, because you don't know if that web host is going to be any good. Even if it is a good host at the time you signed up, you don't know how it's going to be a year or so down the road. Web hosts have been known to deteriorate. Some go out of business. If you tie your site design to a particular web host by using their template, you have effectively surrendered your website to them, allowing them to make your website a hostage. Even if their service is horrible, or even if they raise prices to an unreasonable amount, you're stuck, unless you're prepared to redesign your entire website.

In other words, check to make sure that they allow you to continue to use that template, the site design and all the pictures that form a part of the design, even when you shift to another web host. If they don't, then it may be wiser in the long run to avoid using the provided free template and just design your own (for example, using one of my tutorials above).

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, "I will use the template for now. I can always redesign my website if the web host ever fails or closes." That's fine if the web host fails in an orderly fashion, at a time of your choosing, giving you plenty of warning. Unfortunately, in real life, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. If Murphy's Law (popularly paraphrased as "if anything can go wrong, it will") is any guide, the web host may well fail at your busiest period, abruptly and unexpectedly, when you most need the site to be running, and when you have the least amount of time to start redesigning a new appearance.

Note that it doesn't mean that you can never use free templates (or, for that matter, even hire someone to design your website). Of course you can. But make sure you read the licence terms and think carefully about the implications those terms have on your site. Don't enter into licence agreements that potentially cripple your site's future.

Your website's design is, in my opinion, one of the things that webmasters need to have control over. (The other, and more crucial thing, is your website's domain name. See Is it Possible to Create a Website Without Buying a Domain Name? The High Price of "Free". if you don't know why.) Surrendering control over the design to your web host in such a way as to tie yourself down to that host is not a good thing, in my view.

The Bottom Line

In most cases, you don't need a web editor if you use the free templates provided by your web host. But make sure you read the licence terms for the use of those templates, and don't tie yourself down to a web host for the sake of some website template that looks pretty.

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion, revenue and scripting, from http://www.thesitewizard.com/.

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