Sunday, 1 April 2012

Good Stuff #1: TemplateMonster

Template Monster blog screenshot

A few years ago when I was first starting out with Microsoft's Silverlight technology, good examples (other than tedious 'hello world' drag and drop demo-like nonsense which was at a very superficial level) was very hard to find.

Silverlight, to me, was about two things: "writing .NET code that could run in the browser" but, perhaps more importantly, about "adding 'the sexy' to user interfaces".

The problem was that it was very hard to find well documented 'sexy' examples where full source code was available.

In my search for good quality design-oriented examples I discovered the wonderful who, even as recently as last week, were continuing to produce interesting Silverlight designs for typical industry marketing web sites.

If you're a developer who doesn't 'get' design (but knows he needs it to 'sell' his product) is a GREAT resource. And no, I don't just mean for 'dead man walking' Silverlight.

It's also a brilliant resource for learning the latest HTML5, JavaScript and jQuery tips and tricks. It appears to offer a 'best practice' set of framework code that designers who've worked with this stuff day-in, day-out have put together - at least if the few samples I've purchased are typical.

In theory, the site is there to provide templates or starter packs for web sites for different industry market sectors: "templates" that for the most part are intended to be used 'as is' or can be customised for an additional fee. But for developers they're a great way of finding great animation effects and cool new user experience designs. Designs that are clearly documented and include all source code, even down to the original layered Photoshop files for all icons and photos used. For the asking price of around 60 USD they're a steal - as a starter for your own web sites, or as a training vehicle for the newer web technologies!

If Silverlight is a 'dead man walking' you may wonder why I'm enthusing about TemplateMonster templates now. The thing is don't just do Silverlight. They do HTML5 and what they call 'animated JavaScript' sites (as well as Facebook, Wordpress, Drupal, Flash and a whole host of templates for other stuff too).

They provide beautiful creations that are there for you to use as a starting point to learn the new technologies like HTML5 and CSS3 and responsive designs, for a very acceptable price.

The pricing model can appear a little strange for newcomers. You basically pay around USD60 for the source code for a given template that you purchase under a 'non exclusive' deal. This 'non exclusive' deal means others can purchase the same template at the same price. Or you can pay a lot more (typically around USD3000 - USD4000) to say 'I want this to be my new industry sector website. Don't sell it to anyone else.'

Just one warning if you decide to purchase. The company has recently taken to automatically adding the 'customise with my logo' option at around USD50 when you decide to purchase a template so don't get caught out like I did and end up paying double what you need to. Make sure you untick that option before purchase if you know how to edit HTML (and if you don't I'm not sure why you're reading this blog post!) otherwise you're going to end up paying double the price you thought you were going to pay.

As a learning resource for some of the coolest effects, animations and designs around I think the USD60 asking price for each template is a good deal, with most incorporating cool but subtle animation and sound effects for things like menu navigation, page transitions and other animated tricks.

If you sign up for the daily newsletter you get a daily email with the latest additions (typically there are 12 to 15 new templates a day!) and an extra 5% discount for that day's deals on top.

More importantly you get sent links to interesting blog post articles geared towards web designers that don't get posted elsewhere. For example this recent blog post on 'Painless techniques to implement CSS3 Latest Tricks' is a 'Must Read', comprising 30 of the best tutorials on sensational CSS3 effects that I've seen.

Customer support is excellent and if, like me, you're somewhat artistically challenged, a TemplateMonster template can make a great starting point for a sexy 'fast and fluid' new web site that makes it look like you have great design skills on top of your development skills too. Use new images and text in the existing source code and add new pages to the basic hierarchy you've given and people will never know your site was sourced from one of these templates. I strongly recommend checking the company out.

And yes, the new Fast and Fluid company web site which at the moment is an embarrassingly poor placeholder web site, is going to be replaced very soon - based on a sexy 'fast and fluid' design from the folks at I'll post the details here when it's launched after I've integrated it into ASP.NET MVC 4.

Template Monster blog screenshot

Apology: I've only just discovered there were a bunch of replies (five) to my 'Reboot!' blog post from last week. Replies here are moderated to avoid spam (NOT to censure!) so apologies to those who took the time and trouble to make a comment that it's taken me so long to publish your comment. I'm trying to sort out why the auto-comment emails are not getting through. Thanks for your patience.


  1. Hey Ian. I've found SPAM filters on Blogger rather efficient. So comments on my blog are published automatically and spammy ones get filtered out automatically. I can only remember one case where I had to manually spam-flag one comment in the past...

    I'm just saying that maybe you should switch to auto comment display and deal with spam afterwards (if it erroneously gets published).

  2. Thanks for the tip Robert (and sorry for the delay in publishing it). I'll look into it later this week.


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