Is a Template the Solution?

Today it seems like the amount of content we need to create and distribute is greater than ever. And frequently, that volume is managed by a small or even solo marketing department.

One way to help manage the overload is to systemize processes, and not create everything from scratch every time. Design templates are a valuable tool to consider in your efforts to streamline work.

Templates make things easier and faster by taking the guesswork out of what you’re doing. Colors, fonts, and other design elements are locked in place, leaving you to swap out things like text and photos. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you’re trying to do. Here are some of the most common situations when templates can help or hinder your workflow:

Templates can help when…

You’re looking to save time and money.
Using a template allows you to create multiple pieces without going to the trouble of selecting fonts, colors and other design elements for each piece you create. Templated out-of-the-box websites that let you upload your logo and select from colors and fonts can get you online quickly and cheaply if your website needs are very basic. Or, if you’re paying someone to design your print or online materials, using a templated format can save you from paying for multiple custom designs.

You want tight control over your brand.
When you’re using a template, you can lock down the fonts, colors and layout elements that keep future pieces within your brand standards. This can be especially helpful if you create a lot of materials in-house, but your organization is having a hard time maintaining a uniform look.

You want to delegate work to other people.
If you’re looking to save additional time by delegating work to other people or departments, templates are a great way to enable others to create professional-looking materials on their own while maintaining a consistent brand.

You have certain materials you need to create over and over.
If you have flyers that only need different dates and times each month, or an email that goes out every Friday with next week’s schedule, templates can help cut down on the workload while elevating your look.

Templates are a hindrance when…

You’re constantly wanting to break the template’s presets.
If you find breaking the template’s structure is something you’re doing all the time, that’s a sure sign a template’s not your best option.

Your content varies widely from one piece to another.
Templates typically look best when similar content is used to replace what’s there—20-something-character headlines for 20-something-character headlines, landscape photos for landscape photos, 250 words of copy for 250 words of copy. People are often surprised by how different a design looks when a series of bullets gets replaced with a block of text, or short copy is replaced with something longer. If your content isn’t going to be consistent, you might need to go custom.

You want pieces to look original.
If you want your materials to look original, then stock templates are definitely out. But even if you’re using a custom, branded template, there will be a lot of similarities from one piece to another. While this is often the end goal, there are some situations in which similarity isn’t ideal—for example, if you want your gala or other event materials to display a different theme each year.

You need more than a basic website.
A while back, we decided we would only design from-scratch WordPress websites for our clients. We found there was always some element of functionality or some design feature our clients would want that couldn’t be easily achieved with templates. Unless you’re willing to accept that some things in a templated website just can’t be changed, you’re better off starting from scratch.

So where do these templates come from? Depending on your budget and your needs, you can create them yourself, or you can hire someone to create them for you.

When we create design templates for our clients, we always work in InDesign. If the client has InDesign capability, they can update the template themselves. We’ve had great success with even new InDesign users by leading live training via webinar so it can be recorded for later use, even if the staff member who was trained leaves.

If you need to distribute templates to team members without InDesign capability, you do have options for creating your own templates. You can read more about DIY templates on our LinkedIn post Tools for Templates.

Need help getting going with templates? Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at