January 28, 2010 Off

Why you should create free templates for open source CMSs

By in Web Design

One of the most heated debates within the web design community is on the subject of speculative – or spec – work.

What happens is that a client seeking design work releases their proposal and invites interested parties to apply for the job by submitting a mock-up.

Basically, it involves the designer working for free in the hope that the client will chose their services above all others.

Websites that promote spec work are crowdSPRING and 99Designs.

In a highly competitive market, new designers and developers need avenues on which to build a client base and the strongest argument in favour of spec work is that it allows new entrants an avenue in to the industry.

In August 2009, net magazine ran a spec work special investigation. Asking for the opinions of many of the leaders in the online creative industries, Alex Bundle, of Pixel Horizon, said:

“Being relatively new to freelancing, I have to look at any opportunity that presents itself. At the moment, 50 per cent of my time is spent working with paying clients and other 50 per cent is self promotion. Hopefully this will all pay off and my business will grow to a point where I don’t have to consider doing spec work.”

But if you are a budding new web designer seeking experience, clients and respect amongst your fellow peer group then why not channel your time into creating free templates for the myriad of open source CMSs that exist?

Not only will you be boosting your own personal career and helping an open source project in the process but you’ll also be avoiding the shark invested spec work arena.

In affect what I’m advocating is ‘pro bono’ work. ‘Pro bono’ translates in Latin as ‘for the common good’ and is a term most associated with the legal industry where qualified solicitors donate a certain amount of time for free by advising those in need.

Open source CMSs only exist because both designers and developers give their time for free and we all appreciate the vital role they play.

But there are so many different Content Management Systems what is the best to work with? Here’s an image from Google Trends:

As you can see there are far more people searching for Joomla and WordPress themes then there are searching for Drupal themes. So if there is a bigger user base for these two CMSs it may make sense to concentrate your time on either of these two. However, these figures don’t tell the full story as I know for a fact that there is a dire shortage of quality free Drupal themes while there are hundreds if not thousands of Joomla and WordPress quality templates already available.

Ultimately, it’s all about using the CMS or blogging platform that you are comfortable with as there will always be a need for quality themes and templates no matter if the market is already saturated.

I’ve now created seven different themes for Drupal that have been released for free under a GPL license on the the drupal.org website.

I took the opportunity when creating these themes to experiment with different aspects of CSS3. They are all linked to from my Drupal profile.

Creating and giving away free templates under license is a fantastic way of making a name for yourself as a web designer and I’d recommend it to anybody.

About: andy:
Andy Walpole is a web designer and developer and can be found writing about all things design on his blog: http://www.suburban-glory.com/blog

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