Top tips for building an awesome template

18th November 2020

Using digital ‘smart’ brand templates can save your organisation time, money and save your designers a headache or two. This means creating templates people within your organisation want to use, so where do you start? What makes a good template? As experts in our field here are our top tips for building an awesome template to increase engagement.

Identify what can be turned into a template

It’s important to acknowledge that not everything can be turned into a template; some things are too complicated or do need a design-eye on them to execute well and stay on-brand. So what we’re looking for is artwork that either:

  • requires small updates but can be a real-time sink as these requests build-up; or
  • is easy to understand, versatile and relatively simple to design.

An email header is a great example of this. It’s something that we know designers get a lot of requests for but the changes are so small that it almost seems wasteful for the person at the other end to have to wait for this. A business card can also come under this category.

This is an example of an email header that we've created for Healthwatch.

Another example is an event poster, as these always tend to have the same details needed: title, description, time, place, contact details etc. With artwork like this you could simply change a colour or an image and it could be used for several different events in different places without the actual design needing to change. It’s versatile but simple enough that a person can become creative without getting overwhelmed.

Keep it simple

When it comes to creating a template it’s easy to get over-excited and want to offer your employees loads of options. It’s just as easy to go completely the other way and want to lock down the template so much that the person makes almost no decisions at all. However to make an awesome digital template and increase engagement you really want to find a balance between the two, and in our experience this means keeping it simple.

Remember there will be different people with different IT skills or devices, so we want to make something that caters to everyone and gives them a positive experience. That will be what encourages them to engage with your templates again and again.

So when you’ve identified a need for a template, a poster for example, and you want it to be able to meet multiple needs, what do you do?

Firstly, make a list of the elements that you would want to be fixed and those you want to be editable. For example, you might want a user to be able to choose an appropriate image but you don’t want them to be able to change the logo.

Secondly, once you’ve made your list then review it with your ‘non-comms person’ hat on. That is to say, if you were given these options to change how would you feel? A little overwhelmed by the amount of choice or a little restricted? It’s always a great idea to get your colleagues opinion or ours, and then collate the feedback for review. You can then add or remove options based on the outcomes to ensure that your template is the best it can be.

An additional bonus to keeping it simple is if things change in the future the template itself is easier to update, as there’s not a ton of logic behind it, so this process can be a lot quicker.

Add help where you can

Once your employee has logged into your brand management platform and is looking at the template we want them to have all the information they need to complete their artwork. And that means before the template goes live we need to catch those pain points they might find and add some extra instructions or information around it.

Remember not everyone lives and dies by the brand guidelines, in fact, some may not have even read them at all, so anything you can do to make their experience easier while also educating them about the brand is a win/win.

A specific example we’ve found to be particularly tricky is tone of voice. This concept can be tough for non-marketers to grasp or adhere to, as it can sometimes be a bit fluffy. Therefore we’d always recommend adding some extra information there.

You can add snippets of instructional text to aide the user.

As well as written instructions as above you can also add links to your brand guidelines or create some logic to help control the tone of voice and keep them on track and motivated.

For example, for an event poster, you may want to offer the user a choice of event types and based on their choice the illustration and title will update to reflect the event. They can then continue editing knowing the main title is all taken care of and adheres to the brand tone of voice.


To summarise, creating an awesome template doesn’t have to be a load of work, but it can sure save you a lot in the future! It’s all about remembering who you are creating it for and what can you do to ensure a positive experience while your brand stays protected.

If you have any questions at all about templates book in a demo with our team and we’d love to have a chat.