How To Make & Sell Themes and Templates
Themes and templates can save you a lot of time whether you use FrontPage or any other program to lay out pages with. FrontPage themes are created just for (and plug in to) only FrontPage, Dreamweaver has it's own program specific plug-in templates too, but an 'HTML' site or page template can be used with any program, including FrontPage, Dreamweaver, and even trusty old notepad if you hard code your HTML.
With a little HTML and graphics knowledge, anyone can create a web theme with a professional look. First you get some photos from public domain archives, royalty free photos, take your own photos or scan in objects to experiment with and make your own graphic collage out of pieces of them combined with original colors, shapes and effects of your graphics program. You'd be surprised how many 'mistakes' turn into great designs while you're experimenting... and why keep them all to yourself?
Learn to use the transparency, airbrush (paint and erase) and cut-out features of your graphics program, whatever program you use. You probably won't believe me, but get your hands on Image Composer if you can (although it's a dead program and considered to be a waste of time by most designers). Every graphic on every site I've created or worked on (including webworksite.com) started in or was touched by Image Composer. Unlike more 'professional' programs, it automatically creates layers for you, a confusing feature of other graphic programs when you're starting out.
IC is my favorite and it does .jpg and .png better and quicker than any other program I have ever used (and it comes with it's own set of filters). It has it's limitations though. I cannot for the life of me get it to produce a decent .gif with the quality I want. It will only 'undo' an operation once. Also, it does not have the ability to optimize or slice graphics automatically, two must-have features you need to design page templates or rollover buttons. You absolutely need these additional features and you can get them in Paint Shop Pro for cheap. You can also get them for free in several other freeware programs but, you'd have to first find all the programs you would need (and try them out to find the ones you like) then run each image through every one of them separately, so it comes down to, "how much is your time worth?"
Another thing to consider if you want to design and sell templates is how time consuming they are to create. First you have to know what size to make the template for the browser resolution you are designing for (you can allow your design to resize on the user's end for the browser resolution by setting tables at 100% instead of a fixed pixel width). You can also design templates using CSS, which has it's own set of problems we won't get into here. Then, you have to create a good layout that includes the navigation structure in the design and gives the end user as many options for customizing your design for their individual use. No one wants a site that looks exactly like anyone else's site. Producing a good design and layout is just the beginning.
You'll also need the ability to give and write out clear instructions for using and editing your template, making it understandable for all levels of designers from beginning to advanced. After the template is done (which could take up to 20-30 hours or more of work for a good template from start to finish before you're satisfied), you need to package it for delivery (download, e-mail, cd-rom), hook up the e-commerce (type depends on your server) so you can get paid. You also need to digitally or manually watermark your images or display your templates & graphics so the originals can't be 'lifted' (remember, anything that is displayed on the web can be copied) and there is always a way to get around any 'no right click' script. Your copyright is your legal protection for misuse. You have to spell out your copyright terms clearly and create some sort of 'help' or 'FAQ' files for answering basic inquiries so you won't be spending all your time answering the same questions over and over. You have to set a price based on what other designers are charging for somewhat similar packages, and try to make yours better or unique in some way.
It's very time consuming to create and package high-quality templates and graphics. In fact, keeping it up is a solid commitment, and to get good at it, like anything else, you have to 'love' to do it. Your first few attempts probably won't be too successful if you set your standards too high. It's easy to get frustrated, but if you keep at it, you can do it!
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