Wikipedia sports a rather obscure and unhelpful definition of a ‘template’ that ignores the sense that a web template is often a prototype to be amended and changed at will to produce the outcome you want. There are templates in use all over the software world: any word-processor program will offer you a dozen or so.
This article is being prepared on Word which offers fourteen templates, here called ‘styles’ which control the fonts to be used, the page width and paragraph spacing, the size and orientation of headings, emphasised material, cross references etc. Even after I’ve chosen a style, I am still able to change any of these at will, several times in the same document if I wish.
HTML and CSS
A web template controls the look and feel of the web page your visitor sees. It is created by a combination of HTML, tags that say what material to show and CSS controls how and where the material is to be shown.
CSS which stands for ‘Cascading Style Sheets’ is generally common to your entire site so that page one and page one hundred and one will have a consistent ‘look’ and ‘feel’.
HTML is page specific.
Common Lay Outs
Most websites are laid out with a common structure which has:
Across the top of the page, usually holding your site name and logo, and additional artwork to make the picture the visitor sees visually attractive. Often this artwork only appears on your landing page – ie it is reserved for the first page your visitor sees.
A footer lies across the foot of the page, often only visible if the visitor scrolls down. It often contains subsidiary details such as ‘contact us’ links, ‘privacy policies, and the like. It generally appears as a constant on all pages.
One or two on either side of the screen, they hold navigational menus, login blocks, advertising etc.
The main part of the screen containing your content.
The site has many of the features of a stage in a theatre with most of the action taking place off-stage and invisible to the audience, in this case in the header, footer and sidebars.
The template will control the width of the sidebars and the depth of the header and footer. It will also dictate the colour scheme of your screen, the fonts used for your text, and will probably provide your basic artwork – particularly on the landing page header.
Amending a Template
1and1 provides more than a hundred templates and allows you to change the colour scheme if you wish, EKMpowershop, 150.
Most people find this sufficient, but if not you can amend an existing template or create your own, but this requires a superficial knowledge of CSS coding and access to an FTPclient – usually provided as part of your package – ask before you buy!