How to Create a User-Friendly InDesign Template - Best Practices
April 27, 2013 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I need to create a user-friendly InDesign template for a client that they can re-use and customize slightly over and over. Normally I'm the one doing the customizing so I'm a little leery of my ability to produce an editable template document that will be easy for someone else to use with less InDesign knowledge. (I'm somewhere between being a beginner and an intermediate user.) Fellow designers, could you weigh in with tips, warnings, and resources?

There will be about unique 10 page templates, each of which will have master elements that should be able to have their color changed en masse but not their position. 2-3 of the pages will need to be duplicated over and over as a set but I'm not sure how to make that easy to do. I Googled "how to make an InDesign template" and am attempting to sift through the morass of old tutorials. Tips and advice along the lines of, "Always do X, never do Y" are appreciated. Document will mostly be used in PDF form, though eventually I'll be working to help the client print and bind it. Thank you!

This is not for the boss I described in a previous AskMe last month, in case any one asks.
posted by Hello Darling to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Something that's small that seems to help templates run smoother for people in my limited experience: turn off "facing pages" if it's not going to definitively help them. Facing pages is on by default, and it confused the heck out of my classmates when they dealt with that in scenarios where it made no sense (like when we had to modify cute little magnets and postcards.) Whoever created the templates for our class never bothered to think about this as a potential problem (because they think it's easy to ignore the setting or turn it off if you need to,) and it turned out there are lots of entry-level users who are bothered by it, because of how users use the software when they don't understand why things don't work a certain way. Just imagine the confusion when kids added a second, duplicate page to try a different idea (instead of making changes to the first page,) and then a third page...

I personally turn off "facing pages" on everything except for when I need to actually export it as spreads for printing an actual book. I can't figure out why that's set to be on as a default. This may be because I used Publisher for about twenty years before I even knew InDesign existed.

I've also found that filling in the text boxes on templates with instructions like "you can do this and this and this but never this, or the text box will be broken," makes things easier for the users. Don't use "lorem ipsum" unless you really can't think of anything better to say.
posted by SMPA at 4:57 PM on April 27, 2013

Makes sure your client owns (and has installed) the exact fonts you have used in the templates. Otherwise, formatting and flow issues will abound.

Good luck with this. Hopefully, your client has some InDesign skills. My experience with ID tells me that, no matter how simple the template, unless one has training/experience with ID, there will be problems. And phone calls back to you for help.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:56 AM on April 28, 2013

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