Website templates – Who Benefits?

Some new to the world of website hosting may find it easy to come across sites that offer the ultimate short cut to a “professional” website. Usually this shortcut will be a template. On screen the template will look great with its images, placeholder text, and unbranded graphics. The lure of the template for the novice user will be strong. Most template sites hit all the right buzzwords, “free”, “customizable”, “ready-to-use. ” Unfortunately, to a novice, what they get when they take the bow off their new package may make little to no sense at all. This article will go over the common structure of templates and provide some insight into what skills and programs are needed before a template really can be considered “ready-to-use. ”

At a very basic level, template users  Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 A Lens Skin Vector Template  will need a way to edit the text content of a template. More likely than not the new template will be brimming with paragraphs beginning with “Lorem ipsum dolor” or similarly incoherent gibberish. Replacing that with your business copy can be achieved in a number of ways. Anything from a simple text editor like Notepad in Windows to more advanced packages like FrontPage or Dreamweaver can be used to edit the text. Using simple editors like Notepad will require at least a rudimentary knowledge of HTML, if only to know what to avoid changing in the template while adding text. Advanced editors usually provide a more “word processor-like” feel with graphical onscreen display that attempts to mimic the output on the final product. Your choice of design software is generally a personal one and beyond the scope of this article. It is preferable to have a basic familiarity with the chosen software before jumping into template editing, as template HTML can be complex and intimidating to the novice.

Things only become more complicated beyond text. Your website design software may allow you to change text and move graphics and images around on the page, but it will not allow you to modify the content of the graphics or images. In most cases templates have graphical headers or graphics over images and logos that will contain similar placeholder text. This kind of “text” cannot be edited via Notepad or any other web design software because it is actually an image. Virtually every template package available today will come with large, editable graphic files in a format called “PSD. ” These are “PhotoShop Documents”, and may only be fully edited by the industry standard Adobe Photoshop program. PhotoShop is the 500 pound gorilla of graphic design, it can do just about anything with the humble pixel. This kind of power comes with a high price tag, though. Coming in around $500-$600 street price, that’s just the first investment Photoshop requires. The second is the time and effort to learn the effective use of the program. Opening a template’s PSD file will likely result in a cascade of “layers” and “slices” even an experienced Photoshop hand would take time to digest.

Few other options for editing the provided PSD files exist. Only using the native program will allow full advantage to be taken of the file’s information. Some programs can open PSD files but cannot edit them. Some may be able to import the layers of a PSD file into their own native format for editing. A freeware alternative is “the GIMP”. GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”. The GIMP can import and read PSD files, though it may have trouble keeping text in an easily editable format. Other options are Macromedia Fireworks and PaintShop Pro. Though cheaper than Photoshop, Fireworks is still on the expensive side of the spectrum. Coming in around $100, PaintShop Pro is a cheaper alternative to Photoshop or Fireworks, but will also require some time and effort be devoted to learning its capabilities. Again, it’s important to point out these programs will not replace Photoshop as the ideal editor for the native PSD format. They will likely not support advanced features of the original PSD files and may not even be able to open some PSD files.

Similar to PSD files and Photoshop, templates that advertise Flash elements also require their own editor. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the wisdom of using Flash in the first place, but as a general rule of thumb, keep Flash use to minimum. Unless the template is for a complete Flash site, it will likely contain a “non-Flash” version of the template. Generally Flash is used for navigation and headers in templates, so if don’t wish to use the Flash elements, check to see if there is a “non-Flash” version that uses gif/jpeg graphics instead. Otherwise a Flash editor will be required as well as some more time and effort to learn the editor and Flash. Ironically, templates can be a useful learning tool for Flash, since seeing how they are laid out and scripted can provide an understanding of how the animations work.

A final note on templates in general. Those willing to buy the software, take the time to learn it, and use a template should be aware that many templates are not “well coded. ” For the most part this may not effect or even matter to the template buyer. They will have a website and it will “work”. Anyone who is also attempting to optimize their site for search engine placement, or who wants to make their site more efficient and use less code, should pay attention to the structure of the HTML files provided in the template. Many, though by no means all, templates, use a “tables” based layout that could be improved upon to make it more code efficient and make search engine optimization easier.

Templates are “short cuts”, but a short cut the novice user may not wish to take. Most templates require a particular, and generally expensive, set of tools to fully customize. Prospective template shoppers may want to consider hiring an outside design firm to actually do the work on their selected website template. Some designers recommend this method, as it provides a basic short-cut in terms of rudimentary layout and design that can be invaluable. Pay attention to the template site’s terms of service, though, as many will require the end user directly purchase the template and deliver it to the designer themselves in lieu of the designers making the purchase.

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