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Jacci Howard Bear

Is It Real Design If You Start With a Template?

By October 4, 2006

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using a templateMy oldest daughter wanted to create a nice display grid from her nickel collection -- a school project -- so she asked to use the original file from the coin collection grid tutorial I had created a few weeks ago. Her plan was to change the colors and a few other items but before she did she wanted to be sure that using my file as a template wouldn't be considered cheating.
"A template is a master copy of a publication used as a starting point to design new documents." -- Defining Template as used in desktop publishing
Some people consider using a template as cheating when designing materials for employers or clients. Can a design that starts with a template be considered an original piece of work? Is it enough to simply change the colors or fonts? Tell me what you think. Graphic © J. Bear
October 5, 2006 at 11:53 am
(1) Christine says:

I think it depends on the project and how you, the designer, represent the final piece. If your daughter’s assignment was given in art class with the intention of putting to use elements of project design, then yes, use of the template would be ‘cheating’ (but mostly herself, because she wouldn’t benefit from learning the techniques). On the other hand, if the assignment were for economics class, use of the template could be a wise and creative use of available resources.
If a professional designer has templates they have designed for their use in preparing, say, a quarterly newsletter, then the template provides economy of effort and consistency in layout. If, however, a template is used and represented as a new design, then I would suggest that could be considered unethical, depending upon the expectations of the client – and what they believe they are paying for.
Besides, it has been very rare, in my experience, to ever find a truly useable template from an outside source. The end product is most often satisfactory when the project requirements are used as the starting point.

October 5, 2006 at 5:58 pm
(2) starrpoint says:

You make some good points. I think this would be a good forum discussion.

October 6, 2006 at 6:48 am
(3) Kujtim says:

I think this would be a good forum discussion.

December 17, 2006 at 9:57 am
(4) Frank Gavin says:

I liked your article about using templates…my comment:I am using a GodDaddy “Website Tonight” type template..however there are a few possible shortcomings. A web optimizer I am working with claims that these templates are not search engine friendly – is this really true? Secondly, Googe requires some amout of html code to be integrated into a web site and we’re not sure it is possible to do so using such templates – so there is a possibility of not being Goolge-friendly – and this is obviously not desirable. Any comments about how search engine-friendly these templates are??

December 20, 2006 at 6:56 pm
(5) Jennifer Kyrnin says:

Frank: I’m not directly familiar with the GoDaddy templates, but it is certainly possible to use a template that would be less optimal for Google or be less search engine friendly.

Do you have a link to the templates that we could look at? If I can see the template specifically, I can more easily answer how it might be unfriendly to search engines or Google in specific.

You might also want to look at the Google Webmaster Guidelines. I also have tips on my site for getting better Google Optimization.

– Jennifer Kyrnin
About Web Design / HTML

May 19, 2007 at 3:26 am
(6) Douglas White says:

Templates. I believe custom made templates with the user being the proprietor of the design and graphical user interface is the only way to go. The actual layout and design is the site-map that essentially determines the flow of the project. The client will sign off on the home page or element and will set the guidelines for creativity, links, images, navigation, print, structure, etc.

I just went through a familiar situation with a web-redesign project with a long time client and friend. The company believed in me when I started their website in 2001. As it was my first web project I used Adobe photoshop, Macromedia Fireworks and Dreamweaver. The site was absolutely beautiful as they were a professional LA based Design and Development firm. However, I was not familiar with optimization nor SEO rankings, site-mapping or META tags. 4 years later my friends asked why they were not on google? ahah…aaahhh. Okay so I got my act together, purchased all the tools I could from http://www.webassist.com and learned how to customize web re-design and template construction.

Success! Google now approves my clients and my custom site-map that pulls from a dynamic pre-generated gallery of art I design for the template maps out an entire site within hours, not weeks or months. Dreamweaver uses the master template file generated to allocate CSS style sheets, thus establishing the true skill behind a website and the essential guidelines for a W3C approval or Google ranking.

Skip templates and your spitting into the wind. One thing….NEVER EVER EVER TELL your clients you used a template. Even if you designed the template custom for them at no charge, keep it to yourself! Trust me.

Doug White

December 6, 2007 at 6:40 pm
(7) Kathy says:

I believe in using guidelines for whatever needs to be done (be it art, science, business, whatever). Templates should be considered as guides because they help “guide” us to placing images and text where they can do the most good (in this case, guiding clients and customers to your design–which could mean more business/profits for you.

December 9, 2010 at 8:52 am
(8) Adaobi says:

Using a template in my opinion is not cheating because it is a guideline for first time users. i have made lots of cards – Birthdays, Good Luck for exams, Happy Wedlock Cards (and in my case where i come from -Nigeria-, Traditional Wedding Cards and in my own language too) for family and friends. the words are all my own and it saves a lot of time. it depends on who you are making the card for … i waste time if it is someone special because i want to make it perfect

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