A number of my clients are construction-related groups who are planning to use InDesign for proposals and other company materials. Previously, they’ve used Microsoft Word and Publisher, and found it frustrating to be creative. If you’ve ever tried been forced to do page layout in Word, I’m sure you can sympathize!
Most of these clients want to keep the “look” of their new InDesign documents in keeping with previous materials. But it’s tough to create templates when you’re still learning the program, so many of these companies have contracted with experienced designers to create the templates for them.
Since I like to see typical client files before training (so I have an idea of what they need to know), I often have the opportunity to deconstruct these supplied template files before the client starts using them. And it’s a good thing I do. With only one exception, I’ve found that the designers are not giving my clients a very good start! Clearly, they need to be asking more questions before cranking up InDesign.
Some considerations when building templates for a client:
Build to the correct size and format: Often, proposals are meant to be printed on in-house printers, single-sided, and placed into binders. So the template should be built as non-facing pages.
Build for the correct platform: Most construction-related companies use Windows computers; you should ask the client what platform they will use. If possible, design on the appropriate platform, using appropriate fonts. If you only have a Mac, and the client is on a PC, consider using the OpenType fonts that ship with InDesign; they’re cross-platform. And they’re automatically installed with InDesign (or the Suite), so you don’t have to worry about supplying the fonts and dealing with font-licensing issues. (For information about the fonts installed with Creative Suite 5, look here.) If the client is required to use corporate-approved fonts, and they’re not available in OpenType format, you might have to design provisionally with your own Mac fonts, then finish the document on a client computer with the correct fonts active.
Build for the correct version of InDesign: Yes, of course, CS5 is the current version (at this writing), but your client may have CS4 because it was purchased but not implemented for a while. (I see this a lot, and it’s just one of many reasons to not uninstall old software.) Ideally, you should build in the same version they’ll be using, but if you have to build in CS5, create a PDF before you export to InDesign Markup Language (.idml) for backsaving. Then you can check the converted file against the PDF on the client computer to make sure everything is correct.
Use styles: I’ll try to resist the urge to truly rant about this. I’m appalled how many files I get without a single style: everything is manually styled because “that’s so much easier.” Really?! Manually reformatting all those subheads on 64 pages is easier than changing a few settings in a style dialog? I don’t think so. Make it easy on yourself and the clients who will be using the template.
Use Master Pages: Put common elements and page numbers on Master pages. Documents such as proposals often need three masters: one for the cover, one for general pages, and one for section/project dividers. But ask the client what they need, and look for common formats in files they’ve supplied.
You should care about the client’s experience. As newcomers to InDesign, they may not be familiar with the concepts of styles, master pages, and general document setup, but that’s why they’ve turned to a professional designer. You can make life so much easier for them by providing the correct structure and raw materials for their success.
There. I feel better. Now, go out and make me proud.