How to Find and Use Templates in Your Blog
Blog design comes down to one thing: the templates you use to run your blog. In these blog templates, you find all the code — and snazzy bells and whistles — that make a blog look great. A good template makes you look more professional, framing and setting off your blog content to its best advantage.
With any design, consider your content and readership: What do your visuals say about you, and what you have to say? The theme should answer some subtle questions about you as the blogger and who it is you’re trying to attract.
A lot of the free template designs have been around for some time, and the code definitely has a track record. Some blogging sites review common blog designs, let you know what kinds of problems you might run into, and give you advice about how to avoid those problems.
Here are some online sources for quality free blog templates:
Open Source Web Design: This Web site is great and has a lot of different designers contributing to the site. The designs are fairly basic, but they cover a decent number of themes. You might find a few duds here and there that don’t really look bloggy, but most are great.
The Open Design Community: On this site, the goal of the design community is to make the Internet a prettier place. It has a decent number of blog templates, and all of them are of a high quality.
Open Web Design: Open Web Design has much the same goal as the Open Design Community (almost the same name, too), but this design group has a much larger collection. It can take a while to look through all the options, but you can find a series of good designs that any blogger can use.
If you aren’t that comfortable with either HTML or the blog software design elements that each blog package has, using free templates might be a big problem for you. Just because the templates are available on the Internet doesn’t mean they’ll work for your blog. All blog software has special code that needs to be inserted into any template you choose.
Aside from needing to do a lot of the code work yourself if you choose a free template, watch out for a few common problems as you browse free templates:
Duplication: Because the templates are freely available, other blogs might use the same design you have. Using a design also found on other blogs puts the pressure on your content to be fresh and meaningful to your blogging public.
Incompatibility: Some blog software is unforgiving when it comes to the design of your blog. One of the better indicators of the quality of your blog software is in how the design elements are able to work with the rest of the package.
Bad code: Another reality about templates is that even if the design looks great, it might not be using code that works well in your blog. With blogs, having your content accessible is always the first priority, and some poorly written code might prevent your blog from being the best it can be.
(In)Flexibility: Free templates are designed for everyone and for no one. The template designer does his or her best to create an attractive and appealing design, but in the end, that template wasn’t designed with you specifically in mind. The template needs to be flexible enough to handle all kinds of Web sites and blogs — and ultimately, that means it might not suit any of them perfectly.
Even with all of the potential pitfalls, don't immediately dismiss using pre-made templates. Check the layout and review the code behind the layout before you choose a free template to make sure you have your bases covered.