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Properly Repurposing Templates

In an era where time is money, sometimes the best web design solutions cannot be the most creative or original. Not all projects can end up being new and revolutionary due to workloads and client needs. I’d like to go through and explain the proper techniques of repurposing templates for you and your client.

Using pre-made templates can be a tricky topic, and it seems that everyone has a different view towards the subject. While some find it a necessary resource, others consider it plagiarism. My view lands somewhere in the middle… let’s call it a “necessary evil.” I’m going to attempt to explain when it’s a good time to use templates and when it isn’t.

Let’s start with the negative aspects of using pre-made templates for your designs. The first and most obvious concern is that the client may realize right off the bat that you have used a template for their design and with that opens up the issue that you did not “do enough” for them to constitute the price you charged. If the client is spending a large amount of money for a fresh looking website, you are doing them a disservice by using a pre-built template and merely changing colors and a couple images. A lot of this revolves around the investment in time and money. Another reason to stay away from templates would be if you had a large client and it would require jumping through countless hoops getting corporate or even legal approval to use a template. In the end, it would just end up being quicker (not to mention self-fulfilling) by creating a custom solution. Finally, if you consider yourself creative and are marketing your work as original, then templates should be used for very sparingly, if at all. A portfolio that contains web designs of a similar style and design will look unprofessional to a potential client.

Now if you have decided that a template is exactly what your client needs, here is how you should go about working with one:

In my eyes, there are two different ways to use a website template. The first way is for a quick one hit project. These projects are completely quickly and are budgeted for less time allocation to design. With this technique, ideally you would use the WordPress version of the template for simple installs. Depending on the template, most of the customization (i.e. colors, fonts, images, etc.) will be all interchangeable within the system’s easy to use theme options. Usually this is a good route to take when a specific client has rather high expectations on delivery time and turn around dates.

The other way to utilize website templates is a little more in-depth. Typically, the reasoning behind this method is due to a specific functionality or web app that the template has. Simply said, it is just more efficient than programming it yourself, or more so, paying a hardcore developer to build it. Another reason is if you have a preferred content management system (CMS) and must download the Photoshop (PSD) and HTML files. This is, in my opinion, the best way to go about editing templates, because it allows you to become familiar enough with the design and code that you can begin to call it your own. Also, if the client comes back with more design changes you will not frantic and worried about breaking any part of the website.

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