Isn't That Cheating?

Posted by: Lisa,

Q: If You're a Developer, Why Did You Use a Pre-made Template?

A: If I was going to send an email, should I write an operating system?

One of the things that held me back from creating this space to begin with was the misguided idea that there was shame in using someone else's template.  "Back in the day," (did I just write that?) I used to take my text editor and whip up table based designs.  That was fine because most people's websites were ugly.  These days, a little bit more sophistication is expected.  However, I run into a few problems...  For one, I am no graphic designer.  Sure, I can open up Photoshop and diddle around and edit images.  But compared to professional looking websites, my scrawlings look like an 8 year old's artwork.  That may be an insult to 8 year olds...  (I did design my own favicon - does that count?)

Another issue...  CSS is complex.  Sure, I am reading books, and I understand what is going on.  I do.  But even with an established template, there is a lot of trial and error I go through to try to make it do what I think it should.  To me, it's not intuitive.  And that's ok.

On top of all that, there's browser compatibility!  I think that I am far, far, far better letting someone who has thought long and hard about IE 6 (and below!!) and Chrome, and Opera, and Firefox, etc. and so forth take care of that for me.  Sue me - I couldn't be bothered.

Does all of this mean that my content doesn't belong on the Internet?  I think not.  I should be able to put my thoughts and feelings and work on the web as well as anyone else.  (Of course, that wouldn't stop the value of my content from being the reason why it shouldn't be on the Internet - I'll let the reader decide.)  What this means is that I have thought about my abilities and the best use of my time and have decided to focus my efforts on customization, rather than creating from scratch.  The truth is, as much as I love to code, it's not my strongest skill.  So, building a template entirely from scratch would take a very long time and would possibly have compatibility issues that I don't know how to solve.

Bear in mind that customization of a pre-made template is not necessarily a simple task.  You want to make it your own.  You wouldn't want 100 or 1000 people to have a website that looks exactly like yours.  Plus, since they are typically created generically to suit many purposes, you should definitely taylor it so that it is the absolute best container for your content.  You also want to test it in many browsers and OS's to make sure that the developer of the template didn't miss anything that would prevent your followers from having the best possible experience on your site.  Even though you didn't create it, when you put your domain name on it, you are ultimately responsible.  It is in this area that I have decided to focus, and I believe my abilities are suited for this challenge.  I also think that I need to remember that I do have skills and even though I can see a lot of areas where my skills lack, there are many things that I can do that a lot of people can't.

So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Many people customize and use other people's templates every day, and according to me, there is no shame in it.

No, it's not cheating! lol I faced the same reservations when considering grabbing a piece of cyber real estate myself. Excellent analogy with email-OS.

CSS is extremely complex; I agree. Table-based sites can be clean but lack a certain dynamic glitz only CSS can deliver, and browser compatibility is only going to pose more of an issue with time. And tailoring a template is possible, with a little practical knowledge.

And nice icon, too!

Proud of you, mellolisa! Good luck.



MelloLisa's Daily Detritus is personal blog that I update with entries about my life as a computer geek and amateur musician. If you have any questions or comments, please email me!

"True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us." - Socrates

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