Let’s talk about Family History templates and why you must complete a pre-purchase review before buying one.
When it comes to family history templates, people typically consider how something looks first, the cost second and then the software compatibility and functionality. Sometimes the last two aren’t considered at all. And it’s not that they aren’t essential criteria; they are. However, people aren’t always aware of what they need to look at or ask to ensure they’re purchasing something that is the right fit for their needs.
Templates are often low-cost purchases, but it’s still frustrating when you get something that isn’t in line with your expectations. Especially when it’s something that comes with a no-return policy because it’s a digital download item.
Today, in episode 35 of Art of Family History, I’m walking you through a process to use and the top questions to ask before you buy any digital download online. Including purchasing anything from me in the Template Store.
Watch the episode to learn:
- How to determine what you need
- What you should be able to learn from a product description
- The value of leaving reviews for your purchase
Hang around for the entire video, and you’ll be a savvy template buyer in no time if you aren’t already.
Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments. So tell me, what templates do you currently use in your family history projects?
Click the image below to watch the video now.
Looking for the transcript? Scroll down and you’ll find it at the end of the article.
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Links I mention in this episode to help you choose the right family history templates:
- The Template Store
- Ask The Creative Family Historian
- Template Pre-Purchase Review Worksheet (free download)
Ways to enjoy this article — 5 Simple Questions to Ask Before Buying Family History Templates:
- Watch it on YouTube
- Read the transcript below
What criteria are you using to assess the templates you purchase to help you bring your family history to life? Typically people consider how something looks first, the cost second and then the software compatibility and functionality after that. Sometimes the last two aren’t considered at all. And it’s not that they aren’t essential criteria; they are. However, some people aren’t always aware of what they need to look at or ask to ensure they’re purchasing something that is the right fit for their project.
Ah, if only there were a cheat sheet or checklist to assess each product before you buy it. Today, in episode 35 of Art of Family History, I’m walking you through a process to use and the top questions to ask before you buy any digital download online. Including purchasing anything from me in the Template Store.
- Watch the episode to learn:
- how to determine what you need
- what you should be able to learn from a product description
- the value of leaving reviews for your purchase.
Hang around for the entire video, and you’ll be a savvy template buyer in no time if you aren’t already.
Is this your first time watching one of my videos? If so, let me quickly introduce myself. Hello, I’m Prudence, The Creative Family Historian. I’m a graphic designer who helps genealogists — like you — bring their family history to life by converting research into stories and beautiful heritage keepsakes.
On this channel, I provide tips on family history productivity, organisation, writing and design, as well as sharing my current journey as I undertake a genealogy reset. And if you’re a regular visitor to this channel, welcome back.
Are you enjoying my family history content and want to hear more from me? Then hit subscribe and the notification bell, so you get updated every time I upload a video. And consider giving this video a thumbs up to let me know you enjoy the topic and would like to see more content like this.
Now, it’s no secret that I love templates, and I’ve been creating them for over two decades. They make design accessible for people who aren’t creative, create consistency throughout projects and reduce the amount of time spent on formatting. That’s a win, win, win. However, not all templates are equal. So it’s necessary to take some time to read the product description and ask the creator questions to ensure that you’re getting what you expect.
That starts with determining what you need first.
So the first thing to do is ask yourself why you want to create something. Is it for a family reunion? A gift? Something for your descendants? Knowing the purpose will help you find a suitable template once you start searching. The second thing you want to do is determine the software you have access to and know how to use.
You don’t want to end up with a complicated template for an expensive program with a steep learning curve. Then consider what device you can use to work on the project. For example, if you only have a smartphone, you don’t want a template that requires a laptop or tablet. Finally, find out the operating system of the device you’ll be using.
After all, some templates may be operating system specific – for example, Windows 10. That means they won’t work on a Mac. Once you’ve answered these four questions, you have the specifications for every template you buy. You can now start template shopping to find one with the right aesthetic for your project. Remember to check the digital product against your requirements before purchasing it.
Now let’s talk about what you need to find out from the product description.
Product descriptions are the creator’s opportunity to show you why their template is the best option to fulfil the need you have. Typically these start with a short marketing blurb to attract attention, followed by details and specifications about the product.
Every good product description will include details that answer these five questions:
- page size or dimensions
- software required
- operating system compatibility
- available training or support
- required add-ons.
This information is what you need to assess if the template is a suitable option for you. So let me explain each of those in a little more detail.
The page size or dimensions is crucial information, especially if you intend to print the item.
So that’s the measurement — the width and height — of the page. However, it may be listed as a name or the dimensions. For example, a name might look like A4 or Letter, and dimensions would be 210 x 297mm or 8.5 x 11 inches. Because paper sizes vary, you need to know how the template measures up against the standard paper in your printer. Is it a perfect match?
Can you resize it? Or would you need to compromise on the appearance of the final product? Also, if you’re outsourcing the printing to a service, you’ll have to tell them the dimensions of the file you’re supplying. Not all designs are easy to resize and digital products, like templates, often have a no-return policy. So you don’t want to buy something that is “close enough” only to discover that you can’t use it. If the page size isn’t evident in the product description or is not a good match for your region, ask the creator for more information. They’ll tell you if they have other sizes are available, whether you can resize that file or their recommendations on printing it in your region.
Compatible software for the template is the next thing you want to check.
For example, if a file is created with Microsoft PowerPoint, that doesn’t mean it will work in similar software. So, programs like Google Workspace, WPS Office, OpenOffice, LibreOffice or programs like that. Because the template may use functionality just not available in other software. And you can’t assume that the Microsoft PowerPoint app on your tablet offers the same functionality as the version for laptops and desktop computers. It’s a lot to think about, right? Many years ago, I purchased a Keynote template for a project even though I didn’t have that app.
At the time, I only had access to Windows computers, and Keynote was a Mac-only program. So I didn’t check the specs properly and assumed there would be a way to open it in Microsoft. There wasn’t. And the creator had a no-return policy on templates. That’s why it’s essential to determine your requirements before you start template shopping.
That way, you won’t get attached to something that isn’t going to work for you. Always check the product description for a list of programs where the template is guaranteed to work. If your program isn’t one of them, check in with the template creator to see if they offer other versions. Or if they can guarantee compatibility with alternative software.
This leads us to operating systems and why you need to know where you’ll use the template.
While it’s unusual today to find software that is platform specific — for example, Mac or Windows — not all versions are equal. For example, Microsoft 365 for Mac doesn’t have all the same features and functionality as the Windows version. The same applies to the apps available for smart devices and cloud-based options.
As a template creator, I didn’t always consider smart device users when developing my products. Especially the ones for Microsoft 365. That is why you’ll find versions for Google Workspace or Canva now popping up in my Template Store. Microsoft 365 is hands down the more powerful program, especially on Windows. However, Google Workspace and Canva are cloud-based programs which means they’re available to everyone and files work the same in any environment.
So get clear on the device you’ll be using so you can check the product description for Operating System compatibility information. If you aren’t sure what device you’ll use to create your files, look for an option that uses cloud-based software, so you have even more flexibility, even if it does means that there are fewer features.
The product description should also tell you about available training or after-purchase support.
You may be a whiz with a particular app, but that doesn’t mean the template will be easy-to-use. Some will be intuitive, and others more complicated, requiring things to be done in a specific order or way. And it’s hard to tell from a picture or product description how much of a learning curve will be necessary, if any.
So check what support, training or instructions the creator supplies with purchase. I provide written instructions for my products, and many templates also have video tutorials. There’s also a Help section on my website and the Ask The Creative Family Historian submission form for people to send questions to me. Plus, you can always book a “Borrow My Brain” session if you need one-on-one help to get the most out of your new template purchase.
Also, most software programs have in-depth online support with written and video instructions to teach you about the specific features and functionality. Let’s not forget that you can also reach out to the creator and ask questions before purchasing if the product description doesn’t include after-purchase support or training details. You’ll also want to know if anything extra is required to make the template work.
Every creator is different, so their templates will be unique to their skills and experience. And when they create and test a product, it’s with the system their using, not yours. So that means they may use fonts and images that aren’t available to you. Or create the item in a different edition of the program with features not in the version you’re using. Product photos will show pics of the template in use with dummy text and sample images.
Plus the mock-up has been made with all the features available to the creator. The template you receive won’t have those, and will have placeholder text and images instead. So it may look different to the product photos. The number one reason people choose a template is the aesthetic. So you want your final results to look as close to the example images as possible.
That means accessing the same fonts, images and software features as the creator. Extra requirements don’t always equate to additional costs. Still, they may require sharing your email address to download fonts or other items. Always check the product description for details on any recommended downloads or upgrades you’ll need to make to achieve the same result.
Now let’s talk about providing reviews or feedback to the template store or creator.
It’s a valuable way to share your experience with others —good or bad— and to help the creator improve the template you’ve bought. Honest reviews are a part of making products better. Feedback can be public via a review system or privately sent via email. Either is helpful to the creator. Before you leave negative public feedback, though, I’d encourage you to reach out to the creator to discuss the issues first.
There may be an easy fix, or you’ve discovered a problem they didn’t already know. It happens. For example, I created a template for a client who had an issue due to the specific operating system and the version of Microsoft Word they were using. It was a known issue on the Microsoft forums. However, it never showed up when testing the template because no one else had the same version with that particular operating system.
Odd but true. So consider leaving feedback for your template purchases, either via the store or directly to the creator. It helps other people considering buying the item but also contributes to the continued improvement of the product that you — hopefully— love.
Templates are often low-cost purchases, but it’s still frustrating when you get something that isn’t in line with your expectations.
Especially when it’s something that comes with a no-return policy because it’s a digital download item.
So next time you need a template, spend a few minutes on a pre-purchase review to ensure you’re getting what you need. Start by determining what you have – software and hardware – and which programs you feel most comfortable using. Next, approach the product description with questions to determine the page size, resizability, software and operating system compatibility, additional training and required add-ons.
Finally, consider leaving a review or providing feedback to the creator to help them to promote or improve their product. I’ve created a simple worksheet for evaluating templates before purchasing them. You can grab that from my website — for free — via the link in the description box below. Now, I’d love it if we continued the conversation in the comments. So tell me, what type of templates do you currently use in your family history projects?
Now, do you have a question you’d like to ask or a genealogy organisation, writing or design problem that you’d like me to look into? Look for the link to the Ask the Creative Family Historian submission form in the description below. I look forward to seeing if I can help. If you’d like to learn more from me, check out the video on the screen now.
That’s it for me for this video, though. So I’ll see you in the next one. Until next time. Happy storytelling.