145 – Should we use templates more?

Interview – Should we use templates more?

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Back in the good old days of the internet, when CSS was hardly a thought and nobody used JavaScript, you pretty much had to build websites from the ground up each time.

What I mean by that is that I don’t have a memory of being able to download templates for different websites that you could tweak to make your own; you just had to build them and when the next project came along you had to start all over again. Well, that’s how I did it anyway.

Fast forward into the era of WordPress (and other CMS solutions) and themes came along. You could buy websites ready made, good to go.

The promise was so beguiling – download a website theme, click a button to upload it and bam, your website would be complete and ready for consumption by the public at large. They would come to your website in their millions and marvel at your website building skills!

Want to get your product or service on our 'viewed quite a lot' Black Friday Page? Fill out the form...

Mmm… No really. Most WordPress users quickly figured out that although themes were great, there was usually a whole heap of work that needed to be done to bend the theme to your will. That portfolio that you saw on the website sales page, how did it even work. Aaarrrggghhh… now I have to spend hours unpicking the code because none of this theme is as simple as it appeared to be!

Hands up if you wasted hours of your time and lots of your cash buying theme after theme hoping that this time, this theme would be the perfect fit for the client that you had lined up. Cough, my hand is practically scraping the ceiling right now!

So themes were (and are) great if:

  • the documentation is plentiful and readable
  • the theme is developed in a standard way
  • you have enough patience to work through the problems that you will encounter

Well, things move on and now we have entered an era of frameworks and minimal themes that just get you started, but don’t try to do ‘all the things’. Add into the mix the proliferation of the many Page Builders in the WordPress space and now we seem to be in an era where Page Builder modules do the job of styling the site more and more.

Now almost anyone can create a great looking site in a few days and save their templates to be reused another time. Or perhaps you could just used the page templates and modules that come with the Page Builder. Or (another or…) you could get hold of third-party templates and use those instead.

Times have changed!

My work is more and more focussing upon doing almost everything in the browser. WordPress, Page Builder, templates, theme, image creation, wireframes, information architecture can all be done with online tools.

So with all of this available, do we actually need any skills to build websites anymore? Could we hand the work to a child and say… “there you go, I want a site in a couple of days”? In short – NO!

You still need skills to be able to create websites and you need to offer value to the client in other ways too – funnels, integrations, SEO and all that jazz!

We also need to think about whether or not duplicating pre-made templates and just using those all over our website is doing the client a service. Are we in danger of falling into the trap of making life so easy for us as WordPress website developers that the clients all end up with cookie cutter websites with zero individuality.

Perhaps we should use templates for inspiration for our websites. Use the ideas that we see and then create our own template library that fits in with what we do and what our clients require. That sounds like a good compromise I think, Doesn’t it?

So create your own templates, keep them updated and we’ll come back to this topic again in a future when the landscape has completely changed again!

Mentioned in this episode:

Beaver Builder / Beaver Themer
Page Builder Cloud
Katka template pack
Hack the Buyer Brain

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: 00:00 Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan Wrigley.

Nathan Wrigley: 00:21 Hello there, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again, this is episode number 145 entitled should we use templates more. It was published on Thursday the 12th of September, 2019 my name's Nathan Wrigley from picture and word.co. Dot. UK, a small web development agency based in the north of England. And today I will be joined by David Waumsley from David Waumsley.com because you may or may not have noticed that we alternate to, usually we do an interview one week with somebody, uh, in the WordPress space, perhaps a plugin developer or somebody who has something interesting to say about WordPress. And then the following week we do a discussion with David and I, and it's one of those weeks today, so we'll, we'll catch up with him later. But before we begin that, just a few things to say if you wouldn't mind following onto some links. What I'm trying to do is trying to get you involved in the WP Builds community.

Nathan Wrigley: 01:15 If you're a WordPress that we've got a whole heap of stuff going on, so how do I head over to the WP Builds.com website, WP Builds.com forward slash, subscribe. You can find the link in the top menu and over there you're going to find a whole bunch of ways for keeping in touch. For example, there's two newsletters to sign up to. There is ways that you can connect with us on your podcast player of choice. There's our Facebook group of 2,200 WordPress's giving some helpful tips and advice. There's Twitter, youtube, and so on and so forth, so go check that out. The other one that I'd like to mention is WP Builds.com forward slash deals. It's a bit like black Friday, but every day of the week we have an increasingly growing selection of coupon codes for WordPress products. We've added a few recently, so go and check that out.

Nathan Wrigley: 02:01 If you're in the market for something WordPress or you never know, you might be able to get yourself some, some cash off and also WP Builds.com forward slash advertise. If you are a product owner or you have a service which would benefit by being put in front of our audience, then please do go to that page and getting touch a bit like these guys did. The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by Cloudways. This episode is sponsored by cloud ways which is a managed cloud based hosting platform for WordPress. Unlike others, they let you choose the server from top cloud providers like Google cloud, Amazon and digital ocean and there are no restrictions on the number of websites per server. Try Cloudways is using the promo code WP build and get $20 free hosting credit and WP feedback, our client communications eating up all of your time.

Nathan Wrigley: 02:56 If so, check out WP feedback. It's a visual feedback tool for WordPress that is specifically designed to get you and your clients on the same page. Check out WP feedback.co and the page builder framework. Do you use a page builder to create your websites? The page builder framework is a mobile responsive and lightening fast WordPress theme that works with beaver builder element or Brizy and other page builders with its endless customization options in the WordPress customizer. It's the perfect fit for you or your agency. Go to WP dash page builder, framework.com today and we thank all of our lovely sponsors for keeping the WP Builds podcast going. Really do appreciate it very much indeed. Okay, what are we talking about today? Well David Waumsley and I today are talking about templates. Wind the clock back a long time and websites are really difficult to work with.

Nathan Wrigley: 03:54 You know, before CSS you had to do everything in tables and CSS came along and it was a little bit easier. And then you got CMS like WordPress and you had themes and it made it a little bit more easy, but still you would have to develop the theme and that was quite hard. And then what about the themes that you bought? Because sometimes they beguilingly sold you lots and options and only upon purchasing them and downloading them. And using them. Did you realize that, oh, this is going to be more work than I thought getting it to do what I needed. And then page builders came along and we had rows and modules and ways to save the rows that we created. And so the question is now, should we be using these facilities? Should we be using downloadable templates that fit in with page builders? Should we be using services like DHEA designer and things like that? Or should we be building up our own unique bespoke, completely personalized set of templates that we use? And it's an interesting discussion. As always, David and I sort of flipped around the subject and I hope that you enjoy this week's podcast

David Waumsley: 04:58 today. We're asking ourselves should we be using templates more? So I want you to talk to Nathan about this because just recently I started making my own template library and this is after years of really believing that we should build sites from the ground up based on clients aims. So in some ways I'm kind of just checking that I'm coding the right way. Nathan, what do you think is making templates a good idea? I think it's totally fine

Nathan Wrigley: 05:25 in the way that you're doing it. The, you know, the idea that you're, you're creating your own templates. I think that's really admirable. We'll get onto the whole, um, purchasing of templates and all of that later, but I can't see why not and it, and it from, from all the discussions that we've had over the years, it doesn't sound to me like you're going to be getting a template, throwing that in front of a client and saying it's finished. You know, I've done your website. It took me all of eight seconds cause I clicked a couple of buttons and it was done. Um, no, I think it's fine. And honestly I think this is why this is the way the industry's going. So,

David Waumsley: 05:58 yeah. Yeah, it does suit. There'd be that. Do you know why it's such good fun though? Making these templates, especially when you're just kind of borrowing other people's ideas and just Jen, you know, best, best fun you can have I think with your clothes on to be honest. I don't tend to have my clothes on. So it said double bonus. It's a, this is going to be a fruity episode I can say.

Nathan Wrigley: 06:22 So where did all this begin? How did we, how did we get to the point where templates are even a thing?

David Waumsley: 06:28 Yeah. Well yeah I think it's really interesting cause we're in the WordPress space and um, I, I'm kind of looking back over the history a bit because you know, when it started it was just a blogging platform. Bloggers pretty much need the same kind of thing so they could just stop blogging and get somebody else's design. Its in and make a lot sense. And I'm sure WordPress is as popular as it is today because you know, you could have a beautiful looking site very easily that you could use. And I think it's only when we get later down the line where it becomes more of a content management system and professionals are on board that in the same space as WordPress, you get this division, don't, you're between those people who, um, uh, off the shelf designs and those people like us who are making a professional out to building sites for people. And we want to use WordPress as a tool to do that. Yeah. And yeah, so, you know, I think when that comes in, I think we've, we've got that division between the likes of, um, uh, monster templates and theme forest, and then we've got the difference between them and say something like the, the frameworks that we used to have genesis, which I used. And those were themes, his own canvas, which has gone now and there was headway, which is also gone. So what did, what happened with you Nathan? Where did you start?

Nathan Wrigley: 07:53 Well, the, it was an issue. It's interesting because I was just thinking about that conversation because obviously if you go back a number of years, I wasn't using WordPress at all. And, um, but I was still, I had an eye on places like Envato because design wasn't and still isn't my area of strength. And so the idea of going and looking at other people's designs and sort of thinking, oh, that, that, that set up works really well in that environment for that purpose and so on. So I'd find myself on theme forest a lot. And, and I think we all did. It was a bit of an old adage, wasn't it? That you would buy hundreds of these things and, you know, most of them would sit, gathering dust. But at that point I was using Drupal and Drupal, it's fair to say, you know, if you, if you are into the templating system of Drupal, it could produce an equally beautiful theme.

Nathan Wrigley: 08:38 But the, I think the difference, what drew me to WordPress in the end was, was the ground swell of support for WordPress. The fact that so many people were using it. And primarily I think that's because the UI of the Admin area was so much more easy to use and so much more well thought and beautifully created. So WordPress's um, capability to make things easy on the back end led to a resurgence, well not a resurgence, you know, uh, an ops swell of people creating themes through it. And then it was a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy, you know, it got more popular and more popular. And then when I came to WordPress and I'd finally made the decision, it felt to me as if we were all ready, right, right in the middle of a tipping point because I know that there were, um, you know, there's a history of WordPress, especially when it began, you know, it was, it was difficult, like all CMS is many, many, many years ago to to create these templates, you had to have an understanding of using an id and you had to understand PHP and possibly a bit of Java script and certainly CSS.

Nathan Wrigley: 09:41 And you had to be able to wrangle those template files and put everything in the right place and plan it all very carefully. And it would take hours and hours and hours to get very little back. Um, and then as you described, things like genesis came along and made that whole process somewhat easier, although still probably out of the realm of non technical users, you know, the, the 80% of WordPress users who are just logging in each day in creating content. Um, so I, I skirted around with you. In fact, I bought, um, the full genesis license, I can't remember what it was, but it was fairly costly, you know, four or $500 or something and started playing with that. And it was during my, during my time playing with genesis that I came across page builders because they were just starting to, to make, you know, some, some inroads into the, the whole difficulty of creating pages.

Nathan Wrigley: 10:33 But at that point they were, they were already good enough that I could see the benefit of doing it. You were kind of limited into, into rows typically, you know, you have a row of content and so on. But, but again, that fitted the, that fit the template model very well as well because you could, you could obviously create a template of rose. So that's my journey with it. So in terms of WordPress, um, I've not had, I don't really have the heritage, but I can, I can give you many, many, many horror stories of trying to template in Drupal and, um, and I don't know if, I don't know to this day if Drupal has a, an equivalent of, you know, beaver builder or Elementor, I expect they do, but, um, yeah, I don't suppose it's developed quite as quite as much because of the fact that there's a smaller user base.

Nathan Wrigley: 11:17 Yes, yes, there is that. And it attracts different people. I mean, I remember Drupal was too much for me. I considered, I didn't have these developer chops to manage something like that and then stuck with the WordPress. But at the time, you know, Drupal really was the one to go for if you were serious about it. Yeah. And I think to some extent it's still has that feel about it. You know, it can do terribly complicated things, but WordPress caught up it in terms of its CMS, CMS, excuse me, capabilities to the point where it was kind of indistinguishable really. Um, and I would say that that's probably the case now. You know, what you could do in WordPress, you can do in Drupal and vice versa. But the, the, the ecosystem that's grown up around WordPress is, is far, how to describe it. It's bigger, let's say that it's certainly a lot bigger. So there's a lot more choice. So did you, did you play a lot with things like genesis and headway and you know, WooThemes canvas and things like that?

David Waumsley: 12:15 Yep. Yep. Well, genesis was when I kind of got more professional. That was my tool for five years. And, and that was it. You know, I mean, I, I started doing the theme forest thing, trying to, you know, select these fabulous looking themes that appeared to do everything I wanted and, you know, millions of options. I didn't realize it at the time, but quickly did that, most of them were very bloated because of all those options that they had. And you know, it was always the same. It couldn't actually get them to do the one thing I wanted. So it was, you know, more painful. So I thought, well, there's no getting around this if I'm going to do this seriously and and build these kinds of, I think I was moved by the argument where you really should design this around a client's aim so you should build from the ground up words.

David Waumsley: 13:02 And I thought, well then I need a proper tool because I'm not a developer of, obviously in WordPress we've got people who can just build their own themes for their clients or maybe use something like underscores, but I wasn't that person so I had to have genesis and that was it. And it's really only page builders had changed everything because I think there was a division, you are the genesis person and you were going to do it seriously and put some effort into it and you could design what you liked. You could also cheat with some child themes, but you know by the by and then you had those people who were buy ready made themes to go, we would probably the majority don't you think of people in the WordPress space?

Nathan Wrigley: 13:43 Yeah, but you mean in terms of the ones that bought genesis or the ones that bought premade themes that pretended to do everything? I think,

David Waumsley: 13:50 well, I think the numbers fall something like, you know, that the combined numbers of, of a place like, um, theme forest compare to the combined numbers of those frameworks. We had that we wanted the genesis and headways I think, you know, without a doubt the numbers would be so much higher wouldn't they for theme forest. Um, so the minority of professionals I guess would be, you know, or semi-pros who would be using that stuff. But I think what's interesting with page builders now is that why I switched and why I've also moved to template is that unlike before, you know, you'd really pick your theme depending on your needs as a DIY or, or a pro or semi-pro. With now you can use the same page builder, can't you with both can.

Nathan Wrigley: 14:36 I remember the frustration because I did buy some WordPress themes, um, from Envato, you know, theme for us. And I did the same for Drupal actually with the, with the misguided understanding that what I was seeing on the page would make my life easier know, oh look, that's great, then you got this fabulous portfolio. I could repurpose that portfolio into um, I don't know, real estate or something like that. And then the, as you described, you know, the one thing that you needed it to do that was a constant frustration. You try these things and then have very little understanding of how to alter what needed to be altered, um, to make it do what you wanted to do. And so there was a moment in time, and I'm sure that a lot of us can identify with this because I do remember people talking about just constantly clicking refresh in theme forest, just going and buying another theme because it now seemed to do what you needed.

Nathan Wrigley: 15:28 Actually, I've learned that that theme didn't work in the way I wanted. Okay. This one over here looks, looks good and I'm sure that Envato probably made quite a lot of money from people simply buying things on the hope that it would work. But it was always a kind of lack of documentation, really never, never came with the necessary documentation to explain what it is that I needed to do, primarily because it meant that you had to go back and do the theme again. And of course if you're starting, if you're starting to fiddle with the theme, really at that point, like you decided you needed to invest time in learning how themes worked and not assuming that you could buy the solution. And then the page builders came along and I felt that that was a real sea change because suddenly for the first time I could, I could really achieve what I wanted to do in a very, very short space of time. Um, and then with the advent of, you know, the, the ability to alter headers and footers and so on and really take over the entire website, the, with a page builder, that moment changed everything for me. And I thought, well, this is, this is how I'm going to do it going forward until something significantly better comes along, which it hasn't yet.

David Waumsley: 16:34 Yeah, exactly. And I think you've, you've touched on the thing that really tipped it for me and that is what it was for us. Beaver builder introducing beaver themer which allowed you to take, you know, to actually style with the page builder or the dynamic areas. Because I think I was still a little bit anti templates, um, up until that came out because though it was always still the same issue that everybody had. You couldn't get your head or to do what you wanted it to do. That used to waste so much time. You know, a client would want something slightly different in their header and you would still need to do that with your theme and it would still be quite problematic. I still have to

Nathan Wrigley: 17:10 deal with a lot of the fallout of that on a kind of more or less weekly basis where somebody will want to change something. Not necessarily a menu item, but I don't know, I'll have inserted a telephone number or something next to the menu and trying to, you know, the client, well I can't, how on earth do I do that? Well you can't, I'll do it. It's just cause it's just not, not sensible. It doesn't make sense. But with a page builder, okay, well you just click on the phone number and re type it now you're done. Okay, good.

David Waumsley: 17:40 Yeah. And Anyway, I think that's just the switch for me. I mean I think there's still an argument out there. There's always going to be those clients who are just going to need you to build their solution from the ground up. They're really gonna need to go through a proper design process where we start with the aims and everything gets wire framed and then we have mood boards for the sort of look and the branding and all that kind of stuff. But I just think my market is increasingly dominated by the older, the kind of big players out there, wix and Weebly square space, and then those people providing the service like yell.com or Hybu. And if I don't move into that area and have my own templates, I think, you know, I'm not going to be able to offer some quick solutions for people that they're already, I believe expecting to see.

Nathan Wrigley: 18:30 Yeah, that's a really good point. You know, the, the advertising spend of these companies, particularly wix and Squarespace have kind of, I think changed the agenda for the, for clients because they now have the impression that, well, let's go back five years. I need a website. I have absolutely no idea what to do would have been typical of most people because nobody was advertising how to, you know, certainly not visually in video form, how to throw a website together and now, you know, television adverts, um, Internet adverts on Youtube where a lot of people consume their content. So they see a lot of these adverts. You see a Wix, you know, chap sitting at a desk and um, clicks a button, taps away for a few seconds and look, oh great, look, here's my image, fabulous. And I'll just change the title and I'll drag this thing here and look. Now my title is much bigger. That's fabulous. And so the expectation from clients is that now, um, this is how you build websites. Look, you, you, you just log in and use your mouse a bit and click save a few times and it's done. Whereas five years ago there was, there was no way in, and now there's significant way. And so I think page builders for WordPress, at least they represent, um, they represent a kind of bridge between what they expect the clients expect and what, and what, you know, what we can deliver.

David Waumsley: 19:49 Yeah. Do you think that's going to be, it's going to be a stretch now for those who do build from the ground up? So, I mean, what I'm intended to do, I should explain this really is that, that there's a sort of separate package, I guess for, um, the lower budget clients where I'm gonna just show them some ready-made templates that they can kind of select and we will, you know, the promises that look different for their branding and that, you know, we'll be able to move around. But there's a basic idea to get you started, which is exactly the opposite. To what I would've done previously. So I'm, I'm effectively giving them the designer head. Yeah. At the time.

Nathan Wrigley: 20:25 Yeah. I think gone.

David Waumsley: 20:28 No, I was just going to say, do you think that's going to be an expectation of clients or do you think they'll still come with a blank slate and they'll just trust you on your portfolio of other work that you've done? Yeah,

Nathan Wrigley: 20:39 I'm not entirely sure, but my, let's put it this way. Every client that I've done a website for for the last, oh, I don't know, let's say it's four years or something, has been given a page builder as part of that process. Um, and I, I cannot see those people now going back to a developer and saying, I would like you to build me a site and I don't want to have any input into the way it works. I would like you to build it in, in isolation and present me with paper copies or pdf files or whatever so that I can see what it's going to look like. I think all of those people are going to have the expectation that, no, no, no. I want to be able to change that myself because that's, that's what I did on my last one. Goodness me.

Nathan Wrigley: 21:24 I mean that's just what we've got. And I would imagine that the younger generation who've been, you know, taught in schools, modern it practices and so on, they're going to have that expectation. They're using online services for just about everything, music consumption, creating documentation, you know, Google docs and so on. And the expectation I think for them. So yeah, going forwards, click point, drag save is going to be going to be the way to do it. And I think that your processes have changed because the tools have two words aloud and forced. They've done both things. You know, the, the, the page builder era has allowed you to, to make this stuff available to clients and then as soon as it was available to clients, it's gonna Force all of them. Cause you know, I mean, people talk, don't they? They'll be in a, in a cafe saying I need a new website to their best mate and they, oh yeah, yeah, this is, I'm the had my reps. That's really easy to do. You know, I just click and change the text and click say what really? I have to be phoning my developer to do any, oh no, no, no. It's moved on since then. And I think that expectation will be, will be how it is going forwards. Yeah, definitely.

David Waumsley: 22:29 Yeah. It's just the, the idea of what do you, you know, actually put templates before clients or not or whether that's, you know, a good thing or not because you know, you've raised the point, we talked about this before, the, the fact that it's it to be really difficult first to sell the skills that we bring to the job. If we already present them with something that already looks great because it looks like, well, you don't have to do anything then.

Nathan Wrigley: 22:51 Yeah. That, that is a good point. I mean, the other thing to say is I suppose that depending on the client's budget or the size of the company or however you want to frame it, that there'll be a different expectation. You know, if, if you're investing $100,000 or $1 million in a website, you're going to have, you're going to expect everything to be done for you bespoke. You know, maybe you've even got a team to input content, so won't matter quite as much. Um, but for the cheaper end of things, especially people who want to be involved in the creation of their own website, I think maybe that's different. Um, that wasn't really answering your question. I know, but, um, there you go.

David Waumsley: 23:26 No, will you just set me off with the thought? Actually, I was just thinking about the, I mean, you know, we've not done those kinds of jobs, so maybe somebody use lists and then might be able to set us right in there. But I think, you know, often when it comes to the bigger agency jobs where they'll expect it to be built from the ground up, maybe not so much that they need to build them from the aims, but they just actually the whole organization to be brought into a system that will mean that they will agree on what's gonna actually be built. You know, so the process is perhaps more important than the design being linked to their aims,

Nathan Wrigley: 23:58 I think. I think the other thing to bear in mind with all of this is that just because something is easy for us to do because we're familiar with it and we've done it a hundred times before, it doesn't mean that the client will, will make the connection, oh, this is easy for you, therefore it's easy. Therefore it should be cheap. I'm not sure there's, there's exactly a scale between those things because again, if you put a user in front of beaver builder like or elements or whatever you say, right, great off you go build your website, I've supplied you with everything you need. You've got a WordPress install, you've got a page builder, and I've installed a few extra modules for you so you can, you know, style your contact forms and so on off you absolute radio silence. They're not gonna be able to manage it.

Nathan Wrigley: 24:38 So I don't, I don't necessarily think the industry is dead from that point of view. Certainly it's easier for us to do. But then again if you were, if you were a client, let's say that, try to imagine the situation where you are, um, your going to a web developer and you've never built a website before at all and you go to two different web developers, one who sits you down and explains the processes, you know, this is what we're going to do. We're going to do it all in isolation. We'll give you all these wire frames, we'll send you a couple of designs and so on. And uh, and that's how it's gonna work, which is the way that I would've done it 10 years ago. Say or you go in and sit with somebody, have a Skype call or whatever and they show you, well we could have a header that looks like this. Here's like four or five to choose from. And we could, you know, here's a couple of things that we could put at the top of the website. Um, what about this one or no, we'd look, we could change the font a little bit I think. I think there's some power in that and maybe some competitive advantage if you are using a page builder because you know who doesn't like choice, who doesn't like to see things being built in real time? I do.

David Waumsley: 25:44 Yeah, absolutely. Well, this is where I'm going with a bit of an experiment really. I'm putting together these templates and I'm gonna go for one sort of particular niche at the moment to see what happens with showing them some, you know, beautiful designs, ones that I've largely pinched and copied from other people and then the idea is that we'll be selling them because I've realized for myself that's actually a, a design skill in being able to manipulate these templates to the client's needs and that's takes probably almost as much time as it does. Yeah, building it from the ground up, but the advantages is that I always feel that the clients trying to cut to the chase, to, they have the design before they will engage in it in the process and then you, then you end up using up all your time getting to that point. Then at the very end, they want to do lots and lots of revisions. And that's really at the point when you've come to the end of it. So I just think, well, diverse that. Yeah. And say, here's your design and let's revise this into the aims that you want.

Nathan Wrigley: 26:49 yeah, that's really interesting. You know, it's a bit of a sea change isn't it? Like you say, the design needs to be signed off before we start building the site, as opposed to here's a bunch of his, well let's say we've got three designs that you give to the client. These are like the finished designs and once once you've picked, as opposed to iterated upon them, um, that then we'll just throw your content into that exact design. Yes. Interesting. Interesting way around. Yeah.

David Waumsley: 27:13 Doing it. Remember, I mean, I think the early debates on web design, you know, watch led to no speculative design because it was an expectation for the client in order to pick you to build their site. But it would see what you would build for them. So people were sending in, you know, a homepage design for them. So this is what we will do for you. And there were selecting people on this and, and I think the whole industry said, you know, we'll just working for nothing here if we do this. But in a, in a fact, I guess what I'm attempted to do is bring in this back in, through the back door. Really.

Nathan Wrigley: 27:47 It's interesting, I think on some level we, because we understand the tools and we realize that because we've played with them, it's easy. We have this kind of imposter syndrome or, um, reverse snobbery in a way where we think, oh goodness, if I can do this stuff so much more easily than I used to be able to, therefore, how can I possibly justify the, the cost of what I'm putting out? And you're right. You know, that's not, that's not how we should be thinking. So as an example, if you were an 18 year old web Dev web designer, you're not going to be burdened with any of those thoughts because you'll have been born into the industry with people already using these tools. You won't be thinking too much about the traditional way of doing it and whether the, whether you know, you ought to do it one way as opposed to another way, you'll just go, well, this is the way to do it. These are the tools that we use. That's what my boss told me to do. Okay,

David Waumsley: 28:43 you're fine as likely. Uh, I, it's, it's really fascinating. I just think you know, it, it changes the approach though, doesn't it? I mean, effectively I'm flipping it upside down on what I've always, you know, used to do. But I have learned, I mean, one thing I've really learned just even though it's a new thing, building my own template library, is that you learn so much about the skills that you are, and you also learn so much by looking at other people's work and replicating certain elements of it. You know, because you, you go down your own path when you're used to your page builder and design is something and you know, you might take inspiration from various places but actually building out somebody else's design and then changing it from there. You realize there are a lot of skills in it.

Nathan Wrigley: 29:31 Oh goodness. Yeah. The amount of times that, I mean, I'm sure you can echo this, that you've seen a template that you think is perfect and then you, you sort of start to play with it. So in our case we're using beaver builder, we drag our page design in or something like that. And then you, you realize really quickly that amending the prebuilt design is way more time consuming than just looking at it and trying to mirror some of the key points on that page. You know, some of the key ideas like okay, that's a nice font that goes well on the left as opposed to the right. And I liked the fact that it is made to be dark and so on and so forth. I mean, you, we all know what I'm talking about. You know, you just get cues from the design, whereas if you install a template, you're then kind of stuck on picking all the things you don't like and you have to go and find where's that, where is that thing being created?

Nathan Wrigley: 30:27 Where is the, Oh, that's an image. Oh, I thought that was, I didn't realize that was an image of that guy. I thought that was some text. Okay. Right, fine. Um, and it's probably better to just take cues to the point where we were just talking before this started. In many ways, I think that the best solution that I've found is to, I've got two screens is to have the, the, the, the template if you like, or the layout that I, that I like that I've seen on one screen, um, almost as if it's like a, a page, you know, like on a piece of paper. There it is. I'm not interacting with it. It's just there for me to look at. And then on the other screen, I actually build something that I think mimics it to some extent. So it's just like, yeah, it's flicking through a magazine really.

David Waumsley: 31:13 Yeah, absolutely. Do you know what, another thing that's prompt me to kind of go down this path is just other comments I've heard myself and heard other people talk about in various groups. Things like when I've had clients who said, well, I could get wix or something when they get into quote and you know, they could see the beautiful sites there. And I think the general response for most people is, yeah, okay, you go and do that and when you've got a problem, well see you later. But you know, if you've got a templates there, you could say, well, okay, if your budget's tight and you want to do it there, we can start from our temporary library rather than go to wix. And rather than have to wait for them to come back at some point in the future, you know, you provide the solution there. I mean, it's not gonna be suitable for everybody's business, but it's just a possibility to incorporate, you know? Yeah. Yeah. The,

Nathan Wrigley: 32:01 the, the, the way that I always try to combat that, and obviously I'm successful sometimes and unsuccessful other times is to, is to talk about the, the adaptability of WordPress going forward. The fact that the, you know, if you run into a problem, there's a, there is a chance we can just amend something to make it, um, make it work for you. Whereas with a platform like wicks to greater or lesser extent, what you see is what you get. You just have to cope with the functionality that's built in and the way that that functionality works and might work for you. But we can change it if it, if it's not working out for you. Whereas if you go with a SAS platform, that might difficult.

David Waumsley: 32:40 Yeah, this is exactly the same as, you know, how I try and present it for anyone who's got the choice. But you know, interestingly, but one of the jobs that I have got started off on Squarespace. Now I've done work for these people before, so they wanted it to come to me and go onto WordPress cause there were other sites on WordPress. But this section of their company, uh, I'd already started to work with somebody else, but in some ways I am able to steal it now because they realize that they're going to have to do a lot of work to do the things that they want to do around an existing template they've got where templates we have, we can pretty much add what we like to with WordPress where you can't quite with Squarespace in their situation, you have to work, they have got an API but it's only Java script one and you just can't add in, you know, kind of third party add ons, which they would kind of need.

Nathan Wrigley: 33:31 The functionality is much more limited because it's, it's only what they've got available. You're right. Yeah.

David Waumsley: 33:36 Yeah. So, you know, so we've got those two benefits. I just think it's one of, you know, it's one of our weaknesses of I fell out of my business, particularly for the kind of client that I'm going for, which is kind of anyone, um, that I don't have something like this. And it's just really turned me into the idea that perhaps I should just be offering this to many of the clients I've built from the beginning because really they just wanted to see the stuff. They wanted some design options, you know? Yeah.

Nathan Wrigley: 34:05 Um, so when we talk about this, are we talking about templates being page layout? So or, or are we talking about templates being layouts for rows? Yeah, a lobbyist thinking about more the whole design page, you know, largely a homepage is about enough for somebody to get an idea of kind of, well I guess as a way of, um, sorting out what

David Waumsley: 34:29 the client's tastes might be as a starting point. And then at least when they're picking those, you could at least have a conversation about, well, does that actually match your brand and your visitors expectations? But yeah, still it's an easier conversation.

Nathan Wrigley: 34:43 Yeah. So when you're creating your new um, templates, your creating whole pages and saving those somewhere, um, as opposed to creating, let's say 10 variations for a home page header, let's say, or a home page hero image location or something like that. So it, you'll create one consistent page and say, okay, that's, that's one option for homepages and, and I'll now go and do a different one. Okay. That's interesting. Um, cause I think there's like a bit of a move going on there as well. We've got all these layout template packs that are coming, you know, all, all the companies seem to be investing some money to some extent or other. And a lot of those are row based. You know, the idea is that you just find a row which suits your current purpose. So, so there is a bit of a bit of a dichotomy there. Obviously, you know, with rose you can create pages and, and save those away. But rose to be the way that I'm seeing the market developing as opposed to pages.

David Waumsley: 35:42 Yeah, dude, I think you're right. But I've hit that kind of problem with those. Um, you know, I've tried to use rose and I was trying to sort of build them together, but you have to kind of almost make them why a frame like to, to make them work. Because you, you're going to have to style almost every element on those rows. So again, it doesn't cut out that, that main problem that they, you know, the usual, I'll, I'll know what I like when I see it and I'm just thinking, well, templates as a whole bunch of that you have already that you know how they're put together allows you to say, well, okay, pick from these. And at least when you load that one in, you know exactly how it works and how you can manipulate it.

Nathan Wrigley: 36:27 Mm hmm. So speaking of like creating these layouts, rows, pages, whatever it might be, how are you actually achieving that? Because in, you know, again, wind the clock back 10 years or something, you'd be using a software package to create these. You'd be maybe even hiring a third party or giving you, giving the person in your company, the designer and your company the job of making this and they would give you a pdf or something or sorry, um, what is our PSG, sorry, back. Whereas now it feels like, certainly from my perspective, because this is fairly straightforward to do a lot of this I'm doing in the browser, in the, in the page builder itself as opposed to in a piece of software designed for creating images.

David Waumsley: 37:10 Well yeah, exactly, exactly that where both of us are moving up into the browser. It's just something that we just move, you know, hardly ever do I need to open up a graphics program. Maybe, you know, if you want to just test some things out, you'll move backwards and forwards, but everything's going on in the browser image manipulation as you do. I know. And the whole lot. Well,

Nathan Wrigley: 37:34 there's a couple of things that, I mean, my first point of call is I really do want everything to be in the browser. I mean that in terms of looking forwards, I want it to be that the browser is the way of doing everything and if you're a Photoshop user, I want Photoshop to be available in the browser. That's what I mean by that. I'm not saying that you know, we should settle for what we've got. I would just like the browser to be the tool for everything cause I just think that would be fabulous. Um, but there's very, very little that I do that doesn't, doesn't use the browser these days. You know, I'm using WordPress to, to create the websites I'm using. Um, I'm using online software to create the images. And obviously if you're a designer, you'll probably gasp. But, but I'm, I don't have a, you know, if anything's going to be difficult, I don't do it myself.

Nathan Wrigley: 38:20 I give it to some trusted, uh, graphic designers who I know who can do that kind of stuff. But the limitations over the years for the browser being capable to do images that are going away, but there's still a significant hill, get over, you know, the, the browser image manipulation is very, very basic compared to what's possible with Photoshop or its equivalent. But for my use cases, I can mostly get away with what I need with online tools. And so, yeah, the browser is everything to me. So very, very rarely do I talk about wire frames. I was looking at a proposal the other day that I sent out many years ago and I was looking at all the steps that I went through. So there was, I would create like a, a, a wire frame. Um, but before that I would create, I've forgotten the word for it.

Nathan Wrigley: 39:12 What is the word for when you show what the page structure will be? Like a site map? Yes. Yeah. I would create a site map so that we would see the hierarchy of all the pages and when that was all signed off, I then move on to a wire frame, kind of wire frame, a typical selection of pages and so on. I've really stopped doing that now and you kind of go straight in on, okay, we're happy that there's going to be these pages kind of a bit anecdotally. Um, okay, let's just crack on and make a, make a homepage design and see what we like. Yeah, yeah. And you kind of had to do anyway. If you were going to build a site for people, you had to, if there's a group of people you have to keep them away from the aesthetics, which everybody has an opinion on and talks about and you needed to build up from the beginning.

Nathan Wrigley: 39:54 Let's get the structure, let's get at aims and what contents going in round those logics and almost, you know you get your mood boards, you get this agreed sense of the sort of style and then you'd move into the design itself. The aesthetic design of it. Yes. Just to keep people off the road in the wrong conversations. And you almost had to do that because of the cost of building and laying out individual pages in code each time page builders who killed the oven they, well overnight. It just feels to me like the, the things that I used to use graphic designers for, I can, I can largely achieve myself. So the idea of having to wait on a graphic designer and doing two iterations and it was utterly on interactive. They spent a long time since I've built anything like that for clients. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nathan Wrigley: 40:45 So I think really we're, we're really sold on the idea of you doing everything in the browser. Literally 100%. That's where I'm going. And I can't see that changing anytime soon. No. And I'm, you know, I'm going to the other side of trying to get clients involved in some part of their design process that they want and that's kind of stretched out. I mean, recently there was getstencil, which we both use. They introduced and I'm sure there'll be more of this, a plugin to link their services would WordPress, which allows now, because it works with the page builders, you know, a client can easily go in and select from the millions of, you know, free images out there to use some sort of stock imagery in their sites if they want. Yeah, just, that's a lovely little plugin. I must've met, I installed it inside of WordPress, but I've used the get stencil SaaS app. It's quite nice. I use a different one. I use one called pics teller, which has layers, um, in more in a sort of Photoshop type where you can actually see the layers and you can drag the layers up and down. And uh, whereas stencils a bit more, you have to sort of click up, click up and, and then eventually you'll figure out where it goes bit by the way the looks. Um, but it's not perfect, but it's okay for now.

David Waumsley: 42:00 Yeah. Yeah. So William talked about the, um, and this, you know, there's new services, there's more kind of cloud templates or Perry. Now obviously some of the page builders have got those built in. So we've got Brizy has a cloud, I think Elementor has a, uh, its own set of templates which are available aren't they? On the cloud?

Nathan Wrigley: 42:20 Yeah. And this is, to me, this is a litmus test of where the industry's going because obviously, you know, companies like Brizy element or, and, um, Andrew Parmer's page build a cloud, they're not, they're not going to be doing this stuff unless they perceive that there's a market for it. So it feels to me that saving stuff off, looking at people's templates, buying other people's templates, uh, saving your own somewhere. So it's reusable in the same page builder or in the page builder clouds case, you know, you can, you can go to whatever page builder and store any kind of layout in there for yourself, um, that those businesses are growing up because that's obviously where the market's going.

David Waumsley: 43:01 Yeah, absolutely. And I, particularly if you're gonna take advantage, I guess of the larger market, the one that themes probably is, you know, could claim because they had so many designs, you'd definitely want to go that way. For me, I still think one, building them myself, so I understand them is so I avoid the problems that I had when I tried to use multiple themes. I'd have to keep relearning each time and I want to, I want a system where it's pretty much, it's, I know as soon as I go into a client site after a number of years, what is likely to be there.

Nathan Wrigley: 43:37 Do you know with the, so there's this sort of proliferation of template packs you're, we call it, you know, the, the one that springs into my mind are things like Katka for elementor or by Barna Buxbaum, but also, you know, a lot of the, the themes themselves. So Astra has got its astrocytes and generate press has got generate press sites and so on and so forth. And I'm sure there's an abundance of this stuff. And then do we know what the, what the guidelines are in terms of what you can get away with. So as an example, with Astra, you can, the way that they've got it set up is if you're an astra theme user, you can click a button. If you've got there, I can't remember what it's called, pro sites or something, um, you can click a button and basically import a whole site from templates and it'll do all the pages in one click. Are you, what is that allowed,

David Waumsley: 44:32 you know, are you allowed to do that? I know that would be incredibly lazy and ridiculous, but are you allowed to, would you be allowed to do that? Yeah, I think so. Well, I've set these under, the other thing that goes with the astrocytes is they've in their same package, it sounds like a plug for them, but they've got a WP portfolio I think as well, which actually means that you can show all of their sites which are unbranded. So if you wanted to start up in web design tomorrow, you can just import this portfolio with their templates. Set up your page. And I'm using this, you know, on some kind of hidden pages on my site as a really, you've got all of this big portfolio overnight and if you wanted you could click and um, have them all important. But I think there's a downside to it all.

David Waumsley: 45:19 It's, it sounds wonderful and it works. But again, you know, you didn't set them up. So to certain degree it's a little bit like the same as setting up a theme, isn't it? It's going to be very quick. Yes, yes. Well, it's going to be click too quick to import it. It's going to be click to import it. Yes. Gotcha. Um, but also the all then be spending ages on picking all the things that are not quite to your liking, you know, because one of the things that I noticed about those kinds of things when I, when I first started playing with them, the, you know, let's say for example, the theme is all in Orange and yeah, you've clients got blue as their main color. You, a lot of the stuff is, is based upon the images. It's not done on CSS selectors. So you'll suddenly discover that that, that that person, um, is, is really wearing an orange hat in the image.

David Waumsley: 46:12 And it is the exact orange of the branding that I've got on that, that, um, I don't know that bar that you can see halfway down the page is orange, but that's it. That's also an image. So you're gonna have to swap all these things out and create them. Just so it again comes back to the whole thing. Use it as a point of inspiration, not as a, not as a quick way to get a site up in four seconds. Yeah. And there's one of the thing that I've noticed as well, of course all the page builders are developing it over time. So there are different ways to achieve certain effects which are going to change over time as well. So when you're looking at some of these older templates, they're not going to be up to, you know, the way that you might want to do that now.

David Waumsley: 46:54 So I, you know, it's, it's more the reason why I think, yeah. Building my own template library seems the way forward for me. I could completely change my mind on this. I've changed my mind a few times, but, uh, but scary, I think that I'm really, somebody in a couple of days can just set up a new web design business using these kind of tools. Yeah. These, you know, very, very easy to do, but not necessarily the, um, the, the best way of doing it. Like I just said, I think the best way is to use these templates as an inspirational springboard and then teach yourself how to

Nathan Wrigley: 47:30 do the, the, the, the more difficult work of replicating it and modifying it and applying, applying fonts and getting the, putting right in the margins. Right. And selecting your own images, which work in the, in the space that's provided and so on. So, yeah. What are your, um, what your sort of reasons of, are there any other kinds of things that you think you will benefit from by forcing yourself to create your own library?

David Waumsley: 47:57 Yeah, it's all I'm learning from doing it. Um, that's, that's largely it. I just think I will reuse a lot of this stuff for any project. But, um, I think over time you're going to build up the, you know, good series of designs to show off to people because I must admit, you know, this is one of the difficulties with what I do. If you allow clients to change the size, then you really don't have a portfolio. So you know, having your own set of kind of, uh, designs that you've got ready designs. In fact, I stopped calling and I, I went over a landing page, which I've made, which I refer to things as templates and I realized that I'm just going to refer to them as starter designs. That's a good time. Yeah, that is good. Yeah.

Nathan Wrigley: 48:44 Designs in general, not even start, I just designs.

David Waumsley: 48:47 Yeah, exactly. So I'm going from these angles, so I just think it's really handy and I think it probably is easier to consume than say some live sites that we've actually done, you know, because then they're not that they were compromise where these designs are not.

Nathan Wrigley: 49:05 I do think, I do think the teaching point is good. You know, even if, let's say that you were starting out in web design, you'd never done this before and you selected a tool, let's say Brizy element or beaverbuilder or whatever, and you decide, okay, I've spent some money on that. I'm not going to learn how to use it. Just just spending a few days trying to copy some of the templates that you've come across. Okay, right. I'm going to start with blank. I'm going to try and make that exact page. And quite a few people have done that with page builders just to demonstrate what the page builders are capable of. You know, they've gone to a, uh, a whizzbang website on the Internet and they've said to themselves, okay, I'm going to do a youtube video explaining how to do x site with element or, and they've pulled it off and you know, you look at the two results at the end, there's the original, there's the one in the page builder. Okay. They look very similar job done, but also they've, they've learned a ton in the process. They've learned how to use their tool of choice, where all the menu options are. And as a, as a result, they've, you know, become quicker at doing it than they were before.

David Waumsley: 50:07 Yeah. Well, my wife's got the job now of trying to do exactly what I'm doing, trying to recreate, and I think it's going to be a really useful learning tool for her. And I guess you could do that as well. You know, if you employ people or you've got, you know, a staff of your own in the agency and you've got a bit of downtime, what better way to be building up your own kind of library?

Nathan Wrigley: 50:26 Is this so that can just put your feet up? Yeah, that's the data so that you can just say to your wife, please would you do this? Because now you have the skills and I fancy going out onto the balcony and having a gin and tonic. That's all I want to do is just yet to move one arm with my whip every so often. Tell me, Oh dear me. I think we should end it there. To be honest, David, that sounds like I do. She's back in the room. Yes. Time. It's time to move on and pretend that we were talking about something entirely different. So the answer to the question, should we use templates more? I think my answer is not a one word. It's going to be use them as an inspiration, but then do it yourself. What about you? Yeah, I think that sums it up and I think you know, just I think it's good idea to build up some kind of library, particularly if you've got some downtime even if it's just for the practice.

Nathan Wrigley: 51:21 So yes, I'm a big fan of it obviously cause I do. Great. That's the perfect, perfect way to end it, right. We'll uh, we'll knock it on the head right there. Right. That's it. Thank you so much for listening to another WP Builds podcast. We will of course be back next week having another podcast episode, probably an interview because we like to rotate them discussion with David and then interview the following week. We'll also be back on Monday twice in fact because very early in the morning I will be releasing the WordPress weekly news, which is an audio podcast, but you can access the show notes as well if you want to see what's the news items being discussed. But also at 2:00 PM UK time in the WP Builds Facebook group and various other places, you'll be able to see the the live news where I'm joined by a selection of WordPress's and we discussed the news and it's quite good fun.

Nathan Wrigley: 52:11 You can access that to actually the probably the best URL is go to WP Builds.com forward slash live. The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by WP and UP. One in four of us will be directly affected by mental health related illness. WP and ops supports and promotes positive mental health within the WordPress community. This is achieved through mentorship, events, training, and counseling. Please help enable WP and UP by visiting WP and UP.org forward slash give. Okay. That really is all that I've got for you this week. I hope that you enjoyed it. Please, as always, leave some comments somewhere, anywhere, somewhere, and we'll see you soon. I'm going to fade in some terribly cheesy music and say bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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