To Use Website Templates or Not

by Michelle Harmon Reed

When I first started creating websites I relied heavily on templates.  Templates saved me time and educated me on learning the code.  As I have progressed in my knowledge of web design, I have relied less and less upon them, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t use them.  I think that when it comes to the decision of whether you should use a template depends upon the project.   You must listen closely to your client.  If they have a low budget, need a site up quickly, and aren’t too concerned about style, then I would definitely consider a template, but if your client wants a custom site and has a larger budget then hand coding something creative and unique is the way to go.

I feel strongly that beginners can learn a lot using templates and for the professional it can be a real time saver.  Just remember that there are some guide lines I recommend when using templates

  • Use quality templates – I recommend ThemeForest and Dream Template as starters.  Make sure you do your research and read the reviews.  The code should be validated whether this is previously done or whether you do it yourself.
  • There are restrictions – Not every template is going to be exactly what you need and when you start to make changes and alter it,  you may run into problems.  Of course, the more experienced you are at coding the easier it will be.
  • Consider creating your own templates – If you create some designs as a basic set, then you can call it your own, but save time in the process.  Even saving the basic designs that you can quickly change and tweak are a real time saver.  As you go through the creative process, set aside different versions of the same template.
  • Excess code for parts you don’t want – I once assembled a website using two different templates.  I loved the top part of one design and the bottom part of another.  I don’t recommend it.  It’s kind of like taking apart a car engine and re-building it and afterwards you have all these leftover parts.  It can create a build up of code you don’t need and can cause confusion and conflict of parent/child elements.

One of the major issues about templates is giving the original designer credit.  As a designer myself, I am very careful about copying other designs.  While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is never appropriate to incorporate a design that you know is not uniquely yours without giving credit to the original designer.  Always give credit and link back to the site of origin.  I know that there are design elements that we all copy as the basics on a site, but if your taking whole designs or even a large section of a design, do the right thing and give credit where credit is due.


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