Templates are a controversial subject for designers. Many view templates as a ‘bad’ thing, restricting the freedom a designer needs to bring their vision to life. I even held this view in my younger years. I wanted to shed light on some of the reasons that templates can actually help you focus on the what of your design, instead of the how to get it launched and out the door.
At ion, we create Quick Starts, which I guess are technically templates, but are much more flexible than what you probably think of as typical web templates. Our Quick Start templates allow you to take a pre-formatted structure and do whatever you like to it. Quick Start templates are definitely a great way to jump-start your design.
Before I jump into the reasons that Quick Starts are really a wonderful thing, I suppose I should let you know a bit about what I do here at ion. As a Senior Web Designer here at ion, I work on designing interactive content projects for our customers (often using Quick Starts) as well as designing the Quick Start templates available in our product, for our customers to use themselves.
Here’s a few reasons that I really enjoy using our Quick Starts when designing for clients:
Quick Starts Allow You To Use An Established System
One of the greatest advantages of a template is that you get to use a system that has been tested and developed. One of the hardest parts of a digital experience is determining the correct flow and ensuring that users can navigate through an experience easily. With Quick Starts, we’ve linked everything together and tagged it all so you don’t have to. We’ve got the forms set up with the correct data fields and the validation tested. It’s all already working, so all you have to do is add your own content and brand (and brand is added through simple drop downs—no code needed).
Templates Don’t Mean Copies
Using a template allows you to utilize the structure, logic, and flow of an experience without having to set that all up yourself. Beyond that, the world is your oyster. For example, with our visual quiz template, you can do as little as changing the text and images around, or as much as changing the design of the questions, adding choices, or even changing how the slides transition. Templates can be a starting point, not set in stone, and certainly not restricting your design freedom.
Better Work, Faster
Quick Starts allow you to use your content, your ideas, and implement them into something established. Instead of starting completely from scratch and dealing with complications of something not working how you imagined it, you can use the strengths of the template and creatively inject your vision. We use our Quick Start templates often here at ion, and it’s a completely different challenge and experience than designing something from scratch. As the main designer of the Quick Starts, I can tell you that the projects I create with these templates allow me to produce things quicker and allow me to give more time to really making the designs within the templates more creative by utilizing animations and other more custom techniques.
Not Everything Is Meant For Templates
I love our Quick Starts, and while I may be a bit biased as I designed many of them, there are times where the project simply does not work with a template. Even then, I will still use portions of a Quick Start template, such as a footer layout or a lightbox form. Not only does this speed up my process a bit, but it means I’m not having to recreate an entire form and worry about linking up the fields correctly, or allows me to use some pre-determined settings for a lightbox instead of fiddling with them myself.
Using Quick Starts has really changed the way I work when I approach a digital experience, and it’s what we hope to pass on to you: Being able to use pre-built, tested experiences in a way that stays true to you, your brand, and your vision.