A Look at Affordable, Web Design Templates

Kerry Watson talks with David Braun, CEO of TemplateMonster.com, about how the world’s largest provider of open-source Web templates got its start and what it has planned with VirtueMart, Microsoft Silverlight.

Founded by David Braun in 2002, TemplateMonster.com quickly grew to be the largest Web-template company in the world, offering more than twenty-thousand different Web site templates. In addition to low-cost templates for HTML, Flash and CMS Web sites, the company sells Web site templates for the major e-commerce programs including osCommerce, Zen Cart, Magento and CRE Loaded. This week I had the opportunity to interview Braun about his past success and future plans.

Watson: To what do you attribute TemplateMonster’s great success?

Braun: I think three things brought us to where we are. The first is the passion to build the most successful company in the field of Web design.

Second, are the people behind TemplateMonster. We were lucky to gather very creative and talented individuals (not only designers). This is a team that wants to be the best at what they do no matter what it is  — design, HTML coding, Flash or anything else.

And finally the third thing is our clients and partners. A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from one of our partners saying that the best online purchase he ever made was our template back in 2003 when we had only 80 templates and no affiliate program. Later on he joined as a reseller and managed to build a very successful business of his own reselling our products. We would never have made TemplateMonster such a successful company without people like him.

We don't get to hear a lot about you as a person. What do you want the world to know about you?

I’m a happy father, a drummer and CEO of TemplateMonster.com. I can’t really imagine my life without the Internet. I like developing new ideas and bringing them to life. I like meeting new and creative people. A new project or idea is the best energy drink for me.

How did you come up with the idea of TemplateMonster, and what did you do before it?

Back in the late nineties as a student I began to study marketing. And when I read the marketing textbook Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler, I actually understood that marketing was the thing for me.

In the beginning, I worked with a team conducting national marketing research, and then as a junior expert in a large management consulting agency I helped to develop the marketing plans for FFMG companies. Then I worked as a creative director in an advertising agency and, in 2000, I attended a conference on Web technology and became aware of the versatility and the power that Web had to offer. I quit my previous occupation and turned to the Web and became a partner in InverseLogic, a custom design studio.

We worked hard to make it a successful company, but what made me feel really bad was that we had to turn down loads of potential customers who were seeking for something cheaper than a custom design. I wasn’t able to do anything about it until I saw how our designer worked with design templates — and within a minute or so the idea of TemplateMonster was born.

You seem to have a lot of very talented designers. How do you keep them on your staff?

Our designer team is really the backbone of TemplateMonster. During our entire history we’ve worked with more than 100 Web designers from all over the world.

Letting people do what they are good at works well. We have some guidelines or recommendations, but they are not obliged to follow them. Actually, the most creative designers break these rules on a regular basis…it’s the only way to create something fresh and new. Our goal is to create comfortable conditions for them so they can concentrate on what they love and do best — creating new designs. Communication is also important, which is why we have a lot of internal communication tools including a forum where they can discuss new ideas, trends or just chat."

You have a lot of templates for the major e-commerce programs such as Zen Cart, osCommerce, Magento etc. Do you have plans to add templates for more programs in the near future?

Currently we offer designs for all major e-commerce platforms: osCommerce, Zen Cart, Magento. We also have CRE Loaded but there’s a pause in their production because of the upgrade to 6.4.

In a couple of months we plan to launch VirtueMart templates. VirtueMart is a free open source e-commerce extension for the Joomla content management system. We don’t have an exact date of the launch yet, but if anyone is interested they may subscribe for the notification and we’ll notify them when this new product becomes available.

I can’t tell you what will follow VirtueMart templates yet, but we are watching the most popular ecommerce programs closely. Popularity is not the only factor we take into account. We also listen to our clients as 70 percent of them are professional Web developers. We conduct regular surveys to learn how we can serve them better. Actually it was our clients who pushed us to start producing Magento templates.

What is the next venture for TemplateMonster?

We started working with FlashMoto.com, a start up developing Flash-based CMS, as a design partner and also on product development, marketing, etc. It’s a ready-made Web site with lots of modules inside, so it lets you do whatever you want to your Web site without even opening Flash editing software. The only thing FlashMoto is missing is the e-commerce module, but we’ve already received requests for this option and we’re thinking it over."

What else would you would like people to know?

We are very excited to become an official Microsoft partner. We’re delivering new design products based on its Silverlight technology. We’ve been working very closely for several months with the Silverlight team to prepare these new products, and we all can’t wait to see them available for sale on our Web site.

[Note: Microsoft Silverlight is a new software package from Microsoft that allows Web developers to create animated content — including Silverlight Web sites. Silverlight helps you create Web applications that run on Mac OS, Windows and Linux. See the Official Microsoft Silverlight Web site]

You can keep up with Braun on Twitter and on his blog.

Kerry Watson is a regular contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com, as well as a consultant and author of 14 books in the OSC industry. Her Web site is osCommerceManuals.com.

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