Templates – No longer a ‘four letter’ word

Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla, WordPress and ExpressionEngine allow clients and designers an endless amount of options when it comes to developing a feature-rich web site. Each CMS needs a web design framework within which to display your text and graphical content. On your desktop, this is a full website design. On your mobile device, this is a scaled back mobile web design. The CMS needs to store these “templates” of your website in order to display the page selceted by the user with the information that is to be displayed for that page. And this needs to happen on the fly according to whether they are accessing your site on their desktop or their mobile smart phone. Many people scoff at the word “template” if part of a web design discussion. But web design has gone dynamic. Websites are no longer static.

I would note that as a Graphic Designer I absolutely despise that word in its traditional sense when it comes to web design or any kind of graphic design work. The important difference here is that a “template” in the old world of web design meant “cookie-cutter” or “out-of-the-box” static design – limited and  generic. That is not who our clients are, and that is not what we do.


When it comes to a CMS, “templates” mean something different and far less alarming. Think about the term more as a framework for a specific section of your site such as a template that tells your site how to display any and all blog posts. This allows people to manage their site and add new ‘pages’ just by inserting the raw content instead of having to build a specific page for each post. When you assign it to a section, you are telling the site to use a certain layout to present that information. These sites work more like memory banks of information (content), whether it be a blog, about us page or anything else. Your web site is acting like an operator of sorts. When someone clicks a link to a section of a site, they are asking for specific information and the site presents that information based on the templates that were created in its development.

This is contrary to older, more traditional web sites that would have to pre-make every page, making browsing one of these web sites more similar to going to the library, if they still have those things. The point I’m making here is that these templates are only used to tell your web site how to present and layout information. Unlike the term used to suggest, these templates are custom built for your site and are vital in maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout the user experience.

As we move into new ages of web design, things of course will be changing. I feel like this is one term that is going to pop up in project development discussions for a long time so it seems best that we leave the faux pas of this term behind and say hello to the new day..

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