y Anne Torres
A “template” is simply a design format which you can apply to all (or most) of the pages in your web site. The first advantage of using a “template” system is that it allows you to make your most important design decisions at the beginning, and then just focus on content. The second advantage is that it allows you to quickly create new pages based on your standard design.

The disadvantage is that many template-based websites look homogenized and seem to lack a unique character. Designers who sell templates tend to use the same formats over and over again, insert the same generic images, and use the same techniques.

Just as important, templates are often not ready-to-go right out of the box. They almost always need alteration, and often modifying a professionally prepared template is difficult because the designer will have used techniques you may not fully understand or are specific to the tools he or she used to create it.

So it is preferable not to think of a web template as the kind of thing you buy from an online template store. Rather just think of it as a basic page format that can be used over and over again. The best template is therefore one that uses “standard” techniques that can be modified without the use of specialized tools or programs (like Front Page or Dreamweaver).

Creating a Basic Template

If you are not familiar with web design, try working with a “bare bones” template to begin with. There are two ways you can go. You can work with basic HTML and tables, or you can create your basic template with CSS. Since CSS is rapidly becoming the new standard, it is probably better to begin with CSS — especially if you have not yet become used to constructing web pages with tables.

CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets”, but at the beginning it is not important to understand what that means. What is important is to understand that CSS allows you to create a set of formatting parameters in a “style sheet” (a seperate file) which you then can very easily apply to your individual pages. In other words, you seperate the “style” from the “content”.

A simple approach sheet can contain just three or four design elements. Here is an example which you are free to copy (right click and “Save target as” to a location on your hard drive, then change its name to “sample-1.css”.)

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