Templates, as a term, refers to any universal form which provides guidelines for text and images. For instance, in a letter of correspondence, the recipient’s name is always in the upper left hand corner, the date is two lines beneath that, the salutation is three lines beneath the date, and the body of the letter begins two lines below that. In a letter “template” one simply straight-types the information (i.e., the recipient, the date, the salutation, the text) and the “template” organizes that data. Should one want to change the format at a later time, one would only need to change the template style, and the data would automatically be re-organized into the new format, with no need to actually re-enter the information.
osCommerce templates allow for the same ease of organization of information. osCommerce templates are available for a wide variety of data organization (i.e., product display, check-out functions, inventory controls). Broadly speaking, when one downloads osCommerce, they are downloading a fully featured e-commerce solution made up of a variety of osCommerce data templates.
There are osCommerce templates which relate to aesthetic appearance as well. In this case, these templates are referred to as “skins” or “themes.” Themes and skin templates, like the data templates, are easily downloaded and installed. osCommerce skins and themes, while affecting the appearance of individual pages, do not affect the data organization codes. In other words, how the page looks doesn’t affect how the page works.
Templates, by definition, are pre-designed formats. As such, they are much more affordable than custom-built solutions, whether for data entry or aesthetics. However, templates do not forbid or preclude customization. People may use templates, and still customize certain features within that format. This combination approach is very popular with those that have some budget for customization, but not for an entire site.