I’m already working in web design for two and a half years and my head is full with “use that and that template” and “use that and that from that and that template” so much, that i decided to write it somewhere. My blog was the most suitable place for this.
Here are some expereience-born rules which may be good for you too (These things are for developers who are just starting in this big internet-thing):
1. Never use templates (especially when using CMS systems)
Exception: when all the other ways are ran out.
2. In the exception above: to find the best, always compare them with others. Use commercial ones and only the best. WARNING! may be quiet expensive.
3. Learn to the smallest details possible: If you get a CMS system, or you are using one, learn how to create a template for it, and do it yourself.
4. When i said never use templates, i did’nt mean technologies. Pick up any good technology from the template, check for compatibility and use it (but always check for alternatives first).
5. Consult templates, but only for colors, font sizes, typography, maybe layout, and built-in technology. Templates can learn you, but cannot take your place. What is done by you, is familiar to you. The worst thing is, to scavenge in someone’s work. I saw professional templates put together in a very poor manner. Of course, they fell apart for the first unconventional thing on the pages i aplied them for.
6. If you wish to get something, there are a lot of free and good alternatives, but they are’nt always the best ones. Afford some money to get really good or even exceptional commercial things. They are’nt always expensive. If you get a good freeware which gives opportunity to donate, if you can afford, help it’s developer by a few bucks (even 2 dollars or euros can make a difference). This is the top level of appreciation for freeware developers.
Donating money is not always the only solution for them. Test their software and report problems or suggestions frequently. This helps improving them and creating quality software. Poor quality, bad or useless softs will not survive anyway.