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To Use a Template or to Not Use a Template: That is the Question.

November 22nd, 2009


I don’t know about any of you, but that was MY biggest question this entire semester: Do I want to use a template?  I sat there for a good week or two simply asking myself this over and over (I might sound crazy, but I really did).  I listed all of the pros and cons to each, and ended up with something like this:

Pros to Using a Template:

  1. My website will look awesome.  Some of those templates out there are very professional looking, so my site won’t look “homemade”
  2. It will function well.  I don’t need to be worried about one of my links disappearing or some other crazy thing that I didn’t code correctly.
  3. If I love how it looks, but don’t like something small (like font or color scheme), it’s a really simple fix.

Cons to Using a Template:

  1. Not having total control over everything.  I like to be in charge of my work, and sometimes it’s easier to just make it yourself and not have to mess with a huge part of the template.
  2. Feeling like I wouldn’t learn the in’s and outs of it all.  Would I really remember how to do something if I just made one of the simple changes that I considered one of the positive aspects of the site?
  3. Feeling like I wouldn’t get as much out of it if I didn’t do it myself.

After all of that, I decided to try both.  I searched through the pages of templates to find something I liked, and of course I did.  I loved every aspect about it: the color, the cool widget for a content box, the video in the sidebar, all of it.  But then I sat there and really didn’t feel good about it.  Sure it looked great, and I sat there clicking on my site almost every five minutes just to see it.  It was MY site.

But, when I thought about it more, it really wasn’t mine.

Sure, to an extent it was.  Those wonderful creative commons licenses said it was.  But I didn’t agree.  I tried changing huge aspects of the template to make it feel more like my own creation, but I still didn’t feel comfortable with it.  So, I started looking at tutorial after tutorial to finally make MY website.

After compiling a bunch that gave me a very bare bones wordpress theme (I used one tutorial especially because they didn’t let you copy/paste the PHP.  The author was very adamant that you wrote in each piece yourself, and that’s what I did.  I need to go find it again, but when I do I’ll post it in the bookmark area), I fianlly had something to work with.  Once I got through all of that, I was free to take control of everything.  That video box that I wanted?  I got it.  And I could put it wherever I wanted.  The size of the content area?  The amount of sidebars?  How the entire navigation area looked?  I could change it all.  My site may not look as flashy as the other ones that the templates could have provided, but with a little more work, it can get close!

In no way am I saying that using a template is bad.  I think they are great.  I bet if I knew more about how html and css worked, I would have used one of those and changed it up entirely.  But I personally made it my goal to try to do as much as I could on my own.  I wanted to see what I could do without a template.  Maybe I’m just masochistic, haha.  Who knows.  But I do know now that I have a greater appreciation for my work so far, and a greater appreciation for almost any website I go on now.  Who would have thought that one question would lead me to look at something that seemed so familair in such a different way.

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