Saturday, December 11, 2010

Should I Use a Website Template if I'm a beginner?

Simply put: No!

When I'm teaching people how to create their own websites, I only let them use notepad or some other text editor.

When I first started out, I used notepad. No color coding, no intellisense. Nothing like that. It's because of this experience that I'm able to create good looking websites now or at least edit the templates that I use.

The more you get into website creation, the more you realize that there are two different paths: design vs. development. I think that 90% of the people online today are more interested in the design concepts rather than development.

Note: I wouldn't call knowing HTML or CSS, "coding." It's not coding, it's simply understanding markup language. "Coding" or "programming" is something entirely different!

I have been into website creation for about 7 years. Like I said, when I first started out, I did everything by hand. I think this is a great way to learn.

Fast forward to today: Now, I pretty much only use web templates. Templates are a great thing if you know how to use and edit them. The more time you've been in this business, the more you realize that it's VERY difficult to design a website that is standards compliant (W3C) AND cross browser compatible. If you have created a snazzy design using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and notepad and are just about done, but have only ever looked at your site in Firefox....BOY! Are you in for a rude awakening the moment you open up that same site in Chrome, IE, or Safari!

Once you are knowledgeable in website design, then you should be able to take any template and massage it to look exactly the way that you want it to look. But, unless you're doing website design as a full time job, this can take years to be at this level and just like anything else, it's crucial to take the baby steps to learn the basics first.

Using templates (as you get more advanced) allows you save HOURS of time on getting the design just right in all browsers and I don't just use any templates that I want either. I go to a select few places to get templates and they MUST be a DIV based design, XHTML and CSS compliant, AND cross browser compatible. For those requirements, you'll probably ending up paying a little money or a subscription to get access to quality designs. There are a few good free premium designs out there, but they're few and far between.

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