Choose Between Flexibility and Rigidity
How rigid or flexible should your template be? The answer to this question depends on your specific workflow and design requirements, because every publication is different.
Flexible templates are structured to serve a variety of design choices. They don’t lock you into one particular format, yet they can still save you a lot of setup time. For example, if you’re creating a template for a publication that allows a lot of creative freedom, you might want to set up the template with just one or two master pages, a simple layout grid, and a few style sheets. Such a template can save layout and revision time while giving your document a consistent design and plenty of creative flexibility.
Rigid templates, on the other hand, are precisely constructed to reproduce a predictable and consistent layout, such as a catalog or price list. They contain highly structured master pages, a well-defined grid system, and an assortment of style sheets. They often even utilize custom scripts, Data Merge, or XML technology to automate production. Such templates are the most productive, because they can significantly reduce, if not completely eliminate, redundant tasks. They also require the most forethought and planning, and are certainly more difficult to construct.
In many situations, your template will lie somewhere between both extremes. It should be flexible enough to accommodate several design variations, yet rigid enough to automate redundant formatting whenever a layout follows a predictable pattern.