Today's discussion will be about how to use a website template to quickly build a website, getting your site online and providing an already built webpage, with options from a single-page site to a fully functioning storefront, for you or your business that can still be edited to meet your requirements!

A logo is a great way to let people know what your business is about!
A website template can be a great starting point for your new website!


Website templates, essentially molds for the rapid creation of websites, are pre-made designs that can also be customized to provide a unique and appealing look. Properly assembled templates ensure a smooth user experience while also having plenty of personalization options relevant to their design, and should ideally be easy enough for people of any design skill level to navigate through the interface and set up a shop of their own! Many site owners choose to use a template because they can be used to immediately get a website up and going, and with the fact that most templates are free, or quite affordable, it's fairly easy to understand why using one is a great option for anyone in need of a quickly built website.
The cost of a commercial design, a premium content management system, or even certain custom-built templates is often significantly lower than the cost of hiring professional web designers to fully construct a website for your business, and, because most templates already have the CSS, JavaScript and other coding outlined in the important ways your site needs built-in, it's not usually necessary for site owners to hire a programmer (web designer) for building their website if they can learn to make use of a template that suits their business or personal needs!

So how does one use a template?

There are a few different ways you can implement a template, and the process is usually much more straightforward if the site's web administrator (that's probably you!) chooses to use a CMS. A CMS, or Content Management System, is a website builder, and they usually have a way for you to quickly enable a theme easily through the user interface, along with a wide variety of plugins/pre-sets installed to allow a user to swiftly create a specific type of site. Using a CMS can offer many benefits compared to just a template you set up on your own hosting file-servers, and in an upcoming article I will be outlining a list of my personal favourite CMS/plugins, what they offer along with the features they have installed, and a general but detailed guide on using a content management system for building your own unique site!

As for the topic at hand, here is a quick guide on using a template to quickly set up your website:

· Download/Obtain the template: Many templates can be obtained freely. For those of you using WordPress you can simply go to the themes library, then once you have decided on a theme check out the reputability of the creator and design itself and, if acceptable, download it. When templates are purchased from designers, a link to a file on a file storage site (like Google Drive https://www.google.com/drive) will usually be provided after the payment has been confirmed. Be wary of directly downloading files sent via email, even from trustworthy sources, as they can be spoofed to look like a different sender and contain malicious files. Templates are consistent of a variety of important files (ranging from simple to difficult in terms of editing their code), and are usually compressed and presented in ZIP or RAR files.
Always make sure to be cautious when purchasing any scripts from anyone, especially such delicate and integral ones as a website template to be used for a business or personal site. Only purchase from a business or person you trust, and make sure to use an anti-virus to scan any files that you intend to add to your site! Once you've downloaded a template, your web administrators (or you!) can extract the files, re-check their integrity and security, then transfer or install them to the appropriate location in your site's server directory.

· Edit text placeholders: This can be performed manually by editing an individual page's HTML code, but that method requires accessing more intricate page details and a bit of technical knowledge, however most of the time web admins are offered a WYSIWYG, or 'what you see is what you get', style interface which allows you to easily replace a page's placeholder text, often indicated by the “insert random words here” text and details you see on your website before you have applied your own writing and customization to the design. When using a template or building a new website always make sure to at least remove all such placeholder entries if you don't replace it with custom text of your own, because not only can it look out of place but it might also make other people think your site is inactive or not constructed!

· Change graphics: Templates, by the very nature of being a preset design, of course contain media or graphical placeholders that can also be edited immediately. Admins can upload images to the server using file folders or menus within a CMS so they can be used throughout the website and used to replace any that are already in place. Templates usually make use of images in the header and main sections, and when implementing any picture files it is important to make sure you're using the correct dimensions so the template’s layout will not be distorted. A good way to figure out which dimensions are correct for an individual site's particular placement is by checking the file size of the image(s) used in the template which you are replacing.

Although it can be difficult, building and maintaining a website for yourself can be very beneficial!


· Configure/troubleshoot codes: In some cases the CSS, JavaScript, or other relevant code(s) might need specific adjusting, either for better matching the requirements of a particular website's owner or to provide more security and/or customization. While most of the well-designed theme templates will usually contain comments or tutorials to provide admins with the on-hand know-how for making the right adjustments, do remember though that in some cases (depending on template, CMS used, plugins enabled, or other factors), the coding used can be quite complex, and a separate instruction file is usually provided to explain the code in more detail, how to properly configure it, along with tips and other information; but for these matters if you feel like you are out of your comfort zone, that you cannot handle it, or that the required edits are too intricate to be time-efficient for you to make then you might need to consult with someone who you know to be a bit more tech-savvy, look into acquiring a web designer, or even read up on a particular coding language. It is much better and usually ends up being less resource-heavy to make sure you are not making a critical file error with a change, file edit, or upload you are implementing by checking with a trusted and qualified resource beforehand than to try and recover from the possible outcome; and while you should always keep a recent backup (or few) it is not a good policy to frequently make changes you don't understand to your website's structural code.
With that in mind don't forget most of the point to using a website template is that, while it may lack certain customizations or the expansion options of a fully fleshed-out site builder, it bypasses most of the stress and technical capabilities required to make a website and instead has most of it already constructed for you, simply awaiting your decision on which words, images, and style to be reflected by your personal site!

After implementing templates, it’s relatively easy to turn the website into an e-commerce platform that allows website owners to perform online sales. The most straightforward way is to use plugins and modules that will (quickly and effectively) add various e-commerce functionalities to the website of your choice.

Ok Professor, but where do I find a trustworthy template to use for my (online) e-commerce store?

Building a website is simple and easy with most design templates!


· PrestaShop: With almost 300,000 online stores operating using the template, the PrestaShop platform is well-known for its ease of use, the simple listings interface, and it's crisp appearance. It’s fairly easy to install and configure your own PrestaShop, and as such even beginners should find that creation of a PrestaShop is quite simple and the user interface is very intuitive, even if the customization is a bit limited.

· WooCommerce: WooCommerce, a Wordpress plugin that supports the sales of physical and digital goods, is known to be handy for setting up an amazon affiliate store, because among it's features is the support for adding external or affiliate products conveniently to your site through a fairly simple UI. The feature-packed inventory management system offered by WooCommerce has been helping web admins to operate their businesses more efficiently and get their store up and running quickly and safely for a long time!

· OpenCart: OpenCart, also fairly popular, is a good choice for small businesses that do not have programmers or tech experts on staff, as it is fairly simple to use and create your own OpenCart without needing a whole lot of technical skills. Don't let it's ease of use fool you though, because there are many things you can do with OpenCart, and the option to simply install various plugins to give your website more functionality is usually a nice thing that proves to be very stress-relieving for those in need of a customized website but lacking the resources usually required.
However, due to this same design simplicity, OpenCart becomes quite reliant on the use of plugins for certain functionalities and many aspects of customization, and as such the less tech-savvy users of OpenCart should choose plugins made by developers who release updates regularly so as to minimize the risk of needing to troubleshoot any issues that might arise from having too many plugins installed, the site cache needing to be cleared, or suffering the instability caused by out-of-date template plugins.

· Shopify: Shopify is a very popular solution for those in need of an online shop. It is well-equipped for handling the many aspects of e-commerce, and it is more than just a plugin because, among other reasons, it provides a comprehensive platform for online product listing and sales. Even though it comes fairly stuffed with features, it is still considered pretty easy to use and comes with a seemingly well-designed payment gateway and shipping options as well.
Shopify should be an appropriate choice for people who want to quickly install and operate an e-commerce solution with little to no technical difficulties!

· osCommerce: osCommerce.com is an established, free, and very trusted platform for meeting the online sales management needs of businesses, and with the thousands of add-ons available for osCommerce users this platform represents a huge network of possibilities. However, bear in mind that osCommerce is an older (almost 20 years old!) e-commerce platform, and as such it may not perform as well as the newer ones.

See all of you again soon, thank you for joining me here at Praf.Net, home of Professor Domain's Net Info Blog!

-Professor Domain

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