Website Templates - Who Benefits?
Are templates the shortcut of your dreams, or a sophisticated design nightmare in the making? Find out what's really necessary to effectively use most website templates.
Some new to the entire world of website hosting might find it easy to encounter sites that offer the best short cut to a "professional" website. Usually, this shortcut is a template. On-screen, the template will appear great using its images, placeholder text, and unbranded graphics. The lure of the template for the novice user is likely to be strong.
Most template sites hit all the best 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 short article will go over the most popular structure of templates and provide some insight into what skills and programs are expected before a template really can be viewed "ready-to-use."
Basics- Text Editing
At an extremely basic level, template users will need a way to edit the text content of a template. Much more likely than not the brand new template is likely to be overflowing with paragraphs you start with "Lore ipsum dolor" or similarly incoherent gibberish. Replacing that with your business copy can be performed in a number of ways. Anything from a simple text editor like Notepad in Windows to more complex packages like FrontPage or Dreamweaver may be used to edit the text.
Using simple editors like Notepad will need at the least a rudimentary familiarity with HTML if only to know what to prevent changes in the template while adding text. Advanced editors usually provide a far more "word processor-like" feel with a graphic on-screen display that attempts to mimic the output on the ultimate product. The selection of design software is generally your own one and beyond the scope with this article. It is preferable to truly have a basic knowledge of the chosen software before jumping into template editing, as template HTML could be complex and intimidating to the novice.
Things only become more complicated beyond the text. Your website design software may permit you to change text and move graphics and images around on the page, however, it will not permit you to modify the information of the graphics or images. Typically, templates have graphical headers or graphics over images and logos that will contain similar placeholder text. This sort of "text" can not be edited via Notepad or some other static free website templates design software since it is actually an image.
Just about any template package available today should come with large, editable graphic files in a structure called "PSD." These are "PhotoShop Documents", and may only be fully edited by the industry-standard Adobe Photoshop program. PhotoShop could be the 500-pound gorilla of graphic design, it can perform almost anything with the humble pixel.
This sort of power comes with a high price, though. Arriving around $500-$600 street price, that's just the very first investment Photoshop requires. The second reason is the time and effort to learn the effective use of the program. Opening a template's PSD file will probably create a cascade of "layers" and "slices" even an experienced Photoshop hand would take time to digest.
Few other alternatives for editing the provided PSD files exist. Only utilizing the native program allows full advantage to be used of the file's information. Some programs can open PSD files but cannot edit them. Some may have the ability to import the layers of a PSD file to 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 might have trouble keeping the text within an easily editable format.
Other choices are Macromedia Fireworks and PaintShop Pro. Though cheaper than Photoshop, Fireworks continues to be on the expensive side of the spectrum. Arriving around $100, PaintShop Pro is just a cheaper alternative to Photoshop or Fireworks, but will also require some time and effort be specialized in learning its capabilities. Again, it's important to point out these programs will not replace Photoshop as the best editor for the native PSD format. They will likely not support advanced top features of the initial PSD files and may not even have the ability to open some PSD files.
Much like PSD files and Photoshop, templates that advertise Flash elements also require their very own editor. It is beyond the scope of this article to talk about the wisdom of using Flash in the very first place, but as a broad guideline, keep Flash use to a minimum. Unless the template is for a complete Flash site, it will probably include a "non-Flash" version of the template.
Generally, Flash is useful for navigation and headers in templates, so if don't need 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 is likely to be required along with some more hours and effort to learn the editor and Flash. Ironically, templates can be quite a useful learning tool for Flash, since seeing how they are organized and scripted provides knowledge of how animations work.
Your final note on templates in general. Those willing to buy the application, take the time to learn it, and work with a template should know that many templates aren't "well coded." For the absolute most part, this could not affect or even matter to the template buyer.
They will have a web site and it'll "work ".Anyone who's also trying to optimize their site for internet search engine placement, or who wants to make their site more effective and use less code, should look closely at the structure of the HTML files provided in the template. Many, though in no way all, templates, work with a "tables" based layout that would be increased to make it more code efficient and make internet search engine optimization easier.
ConclusionsTemplates are "short cuts", but a brief slice the novice user may not need to take. Most templates demand a particular, and generally expensive, pair of tools to fully customize. Prospective template shoppers might want to consider hiring some other design firm to actually do the work on the selected website template. Some designers recommend this method since it provides a fundamental short-cut when it comes to rudimentary layout and design that may be invaluable. Pay attention to the template site's terms of service, though, as many will need the end-user directly buy the template and deliver it to the designer themselves in place of the designers making the purchase.