You might be able to skip a costly website design by choosing an off-the-shelf template. Small businesses can take the most advantage of this option, since they likely lack the entrenched website infrastructure of large companies. But those big business might still want to try themes for a tech-savvy HR person to run an internal newsletter website or other inward-pointing situations.
ThemeForest is one of the many sites to sell theme templates. This site's authors upload themes, and you pick from more than 1,000. Technically, the themes work in several situations, including plain HTML, Flash-based, or WordPress sites.
You'll download the theme, make any simple alterations--such as adding a company logo--and install it on a server. Most themes are for the WordPress CMS, but many work with others, including Joomla, Drupal, and Blogger. You can even get great-looking Photoshop and HTML templates.
These themes are cheap, running about $10-50 each. You'll download them individually, unlike some sites that are subscription-oriented.
Site themes could never replace a custom job from a dedicated design and coding team. However, I could see many situations where they make more sense. Maybe a brick-and-mortar store wants to entice local customers, or an employee wants to run a company soccer league bulletin. You can get these kinds of sites online right away with the perfect theme.
Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.