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Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to pick a template that is right for your web

When you're trying to find the perfect template for your website or for your ProStores e-commerce shop, you want to make sure that you have the look, feel, and functionality that is right for you. Many people browse through template catalogs looking for a specific type of template with a specific color and navigation structure. For example, a plumber might want a purple template with drop-down navigation. How many template designers would have what that plumber wanted? Not many! Here are some ways to help you focus on a template choice that will be right for you and your business.

Web Editing Programs
Your first choice is to make the decision whether to use a straight html template that can be edited in any web editor (or even Word) or to chose a template that is made specifically for particular web editors. The most common web editors are Expression Web or SharePoint Designer (Microsoft Products) or Dreamweaver (Adobe Product). I know many of you may say that FrontPage is your program of choice, however; Microsoft stopped supporting FrontPage a few years ago and many of its proprietary functions won't view correctly in today's browsers. If you're looking at e-commerce templates, there are a number of choices, of which the most common of the hosted carts are Volusion and ProStores (More on these in later posts).

So, now that you've chosen your editing program, let's pick out a template! The first thing you want to look for is the color you want your web. Many template designers, including me, use lots of graphics in the designs, so changing color is not just one or two clicks on a style sheet, it's graphics work. Go through the template choices, picking out a couple that are a pleasing color to you. If you can open your choices in different windows, then you'll be able to see the templates side-to-side to compare colors. If you absolutely must have your specific color, many designers will change the color for you for a fee.

Next, take a look at layout. Layout consists of many different options, which include: the number of columns on the page, how wide/narrow is the page, location of navigation on the page and the header section consisting of a main image or no image at all. Let's break the layout down.

  1. Columns: Do you want only one column on your pages or do you want two or three columns? Most of my templates come with a couple of different layouts, but some are made so there is only one choice of layout. 
  2. Width: The latest templates are designed at a width of 980 pixels, some may be even larger. A 980 pixel template will fit easily into view with the new monitors, leaving a bit of room on the side for the scroll bar and a bit of the background. Older templates, made for smaller monitors, were 750 pixels wide or even smaller. They now get lost on the larger monitors. You'll recognize the smaller width templates immediately. They look like a note card in the middle of your screen! I might be embellishing a bit, but they do look very small!
  3. Navigation: Where do you want your main navigation structure? Remember, people don't want to have to look for it! Your viewers want the navigation to be in a consistent place throughout your web. Navigation is usually in the header area and/or in the side area (sidebar) of a web. Choose where you want your navigation located. Your next choice is how you want your navigation to look. Do you want a drop-down menu, a button, or a background color as you mouse-over? Pick a template that fits your needs. If you only have a few links, you don't need a drop-down menu. If you have lots of links, you might just want a drop-down menu or few global links at the top, then most of your links down the sidebar. 
  4. Image or no image in the header:  That's just personal preference! 

Now is the time to pick out the main image you want to use in your template! Does it match the color of the template you chose? If not, choose another image or choose another template color! Will your image "fit" in the main image area of the template? Look at the image you like. Is it in "landscape" (wider than tall), is it in portrait (taller than wide) or is it square? You can't fit a square image into a rectangle without cutting off parts of it.

Don't have an image you like? There are a number of places to get images at a very reasonable price, such as Big Stock Photo or iStockPhoto. Image pricing varies among vendors.

Did you take your own pictures for your web? That's great! Just make sure they're clear and optimized for web viewing. Your main image is your introduction to your web. It should be crisp, clear, and interesting.

JavaScript slide shows or Static images are your choices with my templates. To move or not to move, which will you choose? Choose what works for your "look." The worst thing you can do is put a bunch of movement in your site that distracts from your content and takes too much load time. We use JavaScript Slide shows in quite a few of our templates.

Hopefully this will give you a start on choosing a web template that is right for you or your business! You can always give me a call or email me as well!