opinion

Immitation is the Best Form of Flattery

Chris Bruce

Using professionally designed Web page templates can kick-start the design process, saving you both time and money. If you've never used templates before, then read this guide – it will provide a great introduction...

So you’ve been scouring the Net searching your competitor’s websites to see how they look and what they are doing. Like most things on the Web, some sites just look OK, while others really stand out and grab your attention. Hopefully, you want your website to stand out and grab the attention of your visitors, too. Determining how the website should look and feel, which colors to use, which font to use, etc. is usually the responsibility of a graphic artist. Hiring a graphic artist to come up with a design for your site can get very expensive; and there is no formula for the creative process. It can take countless hours to come up with a design you like. Most graphic artists put together a few different comps (publishing speak for samples) for you to look at. You express your likes and/or dislikes and the graphic artist tries to come up with something better. After numerous hours, you end up with a finished design that you like.

The design process can consume a large part of any website’s budget. The good news, however, is that you can have a well-designed site for a fraction of the cost of hiring a graphic artist to completely create your website from scratch. Enter the world of website templates. Many aspiring graphic artists are now prepackaging complete website designs and selling the source files for your consumption. You can then take these source files and tweak the colors and graphics to meet your needs. These templates range in price from $19 to well over $2,000 and you can choose from thousands of different designs.

Templates come in a variety of formats. Many of these formats are based on the software used to make them. Most of the templates are in Adobe Photoshop format. For more complete templates, they can come in Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive, and Macromedia Fireworks formats. You can even get templates that have Flash introduction pages and menus.

There are many websites where you can peruse and purchase Web templates, but the majority of them simply resell the templates from TemplateMonster.com. They sell several different types of templates, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe GoLive, and Macromedia Fireworks. And you can search for specific types of templates (sports, hosting, etc.). Another good source for templates is TemplateStyle.com. They’re very affordable and also offer logos. You may also want to look at CoolHomepages.com. For those of you looking to purchase templates for your adult sites, you can find them at AdultTemplates.com.

With so many templates to choose from, you will no doubt find something that you really like. Many times, looking through the templates will give you new ideas for your website. Once you find the template, you usually have two purchase options. You can purchase a copy of the template, which means that you have permission to use it and that the author will continue to sell it. On the other hand, if you dread the idea of someone else having the same site design, authors will usually allow you to buy the exclusive rights to the template. Some templates are even sold as exclusive copies only.

Not all templates are created equal. Some template authors are very talented and create the template so that users can customize just the areas that need to be customized. These areas include the menu items, the website logo, and some of the general colors. Some of the lesser quality templates require you to do a lot of extra work if you want to make any customizations. You also need to understand the licensing terms, as there have been images pictured in the templates that required another license from the owner of the images.

Even though you can buy a ready made template, you still may need to retain the services of a graphic artist to generate the images and text specific to your site. If you have a very specific look and feel that you need, you may be better off designing your own. However, using a template can certainly kick-start the design process, and save lots of time and money. Many template authors provide additional design services and will be willing to customize the template for you.

Chris Bruce is a Web programmer at BionicPixels specializing in server-side development.

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