What would you want out of Master Page templates?

I need your help.  I've been trying to figure out what a set of master page templates / themes would look like to help people easily build attractive web sites -- But I'm struggling to figure out if there is a need for this and if there is what you all would want.

The initial vision was to create 10 unique page layouts -- think 3 column layouts, 2 column layouts, etc. that each have five unique color schemes.  These layouts would be simple Master page files using CSS to control the layout/color scheme.  We would put contentplaceholders in the appropriate areas for where content should be derived and everything else might have static HTML place holders (for a treeview, menu, bread crumb, etc.)

But as I got to thinking -- I wasn't sure it would be enough -- is this helpful?  Would it be nice to have 50 or so very professionally laid out master pages that you can use to begin building your site?  They would not be seeded with controls -- so you'd have to add those in yourself, but it would have the div structures and color schemes, and everything else all completed-- with maybe screenshots of what you 'could' do with it.  Or is that not enough?  Do you want them fully baked with controls already dropped in?

Let me know your thoughts.  I want to make sure we do the right thing to add the most value and I just keep going in circles in my head (painful honesty here) -- so what do you want from a layout?  Reply here and let me know!

UPDATE: design center is coming together slowly -- but we have our first round of templates up

Comments (125)

  1. Jeff says:

    Honestly, I’ve never had any need for pre-made templates. I think the audience for this kind of thing is absolutely tiny. Designers and developers deploying stuff in the wild won’t use them because they don’t want their stuff to look like someone else’s stuff. I think the only people that would ever use them are people developing intranet apps.

    Whidbey does a nice job of doing lots of stuff for us, but I’m not sure that it will all be used out in the world once it’s available.

  2. Charles Chen says:

    Seems simple enough to me. Create two sets of templates: "Advanced" and "Barebones" or "Simple".

    And yes, get them professionally done, pay people even 🙂

    What would be nice:

    – Some CSS tableless layouts. I wouldn’t go all tableless, since some users may not be comfortable with the complex CSS required to work with such layouts, but it’s nice to have a few in there.

    – Ability to preview, as you mentioned, but maybe use a static HTML preview file. For example, Template_0.master would have a preview Template_0_preview.html so that users can view a version that they can see in a browser and see how it looks.

    – Theme packs, not just color schemes.

    Take a look at how Word does templates for resumes and stuff and perhaps take a page from them. All out samples with everything should be exactly that: standalone samples (another idea to think about).

  3. I think have at least a few "ready-to-go" pages would be helpful. Like SharePoint services — some templates are full of web parts, others are just shells.

  4. Andy says:

    I build asp.net apps for my company intranet. Our company has existing visual guidelines for all kinds of media (including web), which require very specific colours, fonts, and in the case of the web, certain elements on a page (the corporate logo, an intranet-wide header bar, etc). At work I wouldn’t find these kind of templates that much help. Maybe they’d be more useful to others, especially if you make at least some of them customisable (or I suppose basic and evolvable) enough to not look like every other site built from that template?

  5. ToddM says:

    I’ll second Charles Chen’s vote for at least one tableless layout. And I’ll vote for it to be completely tableless.

    In answer to the general question, if these are professionally done then, yes, they are useful. It always amazed me that something like MSWord comes with so many templates, but most of them look childish. I will say that Office Online has added some nice downloadable PowerPoint templates over the past couple of years. [MS Publisher has generally had some good templates out-of-the box.]

    SharePoint and DNN are good examples of how if the available templates are ‘good enough’, people will use them. You may even want to have reasonable copies, er, ‘tributes’ to, say, the top 10 most popular web sites. At least you can bang out the google-like template pretty quickly!

    Okay, as for controls — I think you’d want to have at least some of them with baked-in controls. In an ideal world, you’d maybe have two copies of each template — with controls and without — although some templates may not make sense one way or the other.

  6. Scott Elkin says:

    What is most important to me is a well defined CSS file for all styles. So for a certain template, there is a defined h1, h2, h3, maindiv, maindiv a, … you get the picture. And as close to tableless as you can.

    That gives us something that we can tweak and with one css file we can make the site looking remarkably different.

    If all you give is a tableless design, but dont put much thought on the fonts, kerning, and spacing, it doesn’t really buy me a whole lot.

    Also, although we can assume that this would happen, it must work in Firefox/Mozilla browsers.

  7. David Smith says:

    I think Charles said it well:

    >Seems simple enough to me. Create two sets of templates: "Advanced" and "Barebones" or "Simple".

    If people want to write their stuff from scratch, they can always do that. But it’d be nice to have some templated master pages right out of the box.

  8. Paul Wilson says:

    I would like some professionally done master templates — the more the better — most developers are not good designers, and many of us do not work at large companies with that luxury. Definitely have them use CSS for basics like colors and fonts, although unlike another poster I still want to see versions with table layouts since lots of us have to support older browsers too.

  9. Torin Blair says:

    The best bet would be to create one or two "examples" with some simple controls built in, or create tutorials walk a user through how to put controls into the examples.

    I wouldn’t worry about creating 50 or so templates. Once whidbey is released, there will probably be hundreds of people putting out their own templates for public use (sorta like themes).

  10. anonymouse says:

    I’d like to see these templates, and, more so, I’d like to see their construction, to get proper guidelines on how you see master pages being created "from the ground up"; this would be the great basis for a MSDN article for example.

    Also, structuring the site would be a great thing to see – a recommended folder structure would be great; too often do I see a mismatch of folder naming, code placing etc etc.

    Seeing guidelines on project structuring (everything from where to put css, aspx, .cs/.vb files through to coding paths – how many people know about using "~/" for example?) would be neat too. I think the templates have great value in this area, not just in their worth as pre-fabricated infrastructure, but as guidelines/demos of the above.

  11. I love Master Pages and the idea of having canned templates is great but in the current implementation Masterpages aren’t terribly useful unless you are starting with new pages as applying a Masterpage to an existing page breaks it. So rather than a canned template or static samples perhaps a wizard that gives you a couple options/steps ala publisher such as:

    Step 1. Choose a table Layout -and where the custom content placeholder goes.

    Step 2. Choose a Color Scheme

    Step 3. What functionality would you like implemented, such as login/security, navigation, personalization etc.

    Step 4. Would you like graphics added…If so add that to the page (low priority)

    Then performs the necessary magic to retrofit an existing page to that Masterpage.

    You had to ask what i wanted!


  12. Kevin Dente says:

    Templates would be awesome! A mix of fully-baked and visual layout would be ideal. It would be nice to have a mix of different site types, such as:

    * Web application

    * Marketing/content

    * Portal (with Web Parts)

  13. Palmos says:

    CSS tableless layouts template would be great. Have some template that could be used for complicated/big website similar to microsoft.com.

  14. Tom says:

    I don’t think you need to go overboard on this. Most MS products are bloated with this kind of cr**, so it would be kind of refreshing to have just a few, with clear-cut and correct instructions on how to roll your own. What I most want from master pages is that Sharepoint Portal Server is built upon master page inheritance. That product is a trainwreck without them…

  15. dru says:

    I agree with a simple /advanced approach. Also the concept of lower quantity + higher quality (as fas as html and the code go). It would also be neat to see some themes designed by the leaders in the CSS world similar to what blogger did. In the templates try to implement as many best practices as possible and then document them so that people can learn why people make the choices they do.

  16. brian says:

    I think you need just a very few – say 3, but they should rigorously do the following.

    – be cross-browser compatible (ie, moz/ff, safari, opera)

    – validate, pref. xhtml.

    – be very lightweight.

    – flow well with dynamic datasets. that means not having a completely fixed layout

    – be extensively documented including hints on how they may be customized while maintaining all of the above.

    instead of worrying about lots of color options why not build a better color/palette selector into the IDE so people can generate their own.

  17. David Taylor says:

    I think this is important, if only to set standards and best practice, etc.

    For example, in your example master pages you can use a standard control id for your main content placeholder, and similarly use standard id names for your header, footer and any sidebar placeholders. Hopefully other master page designers will follow your ‘convention’, which will make it much easier to switch between 3rd party master pages without changing all the placeholder ids.

    I was sorry to hear you are not planning to ship any default Themes, as I think a few good out of the box themes will also help.

    If would be great for you to define some standard id’s you use within the master page CSS because that could then be easily changed within your themes; which again helps set standards and makes it easier for third parties to supply themes and mater pages that are easily substituted.

    Finally, I think it adds value for some default master pages / themes to be supplied because even when you are showing people ASP.NET (2.0) for the first time, it would be nicer to have a more professional look without having to take a few extra steps.

  18. Paul Watson says:

    I am with Jeff, it is not something that a professional ASP.NET team would want or use. We tend to start from scratch or use our own base-templates.

    David Taylor says it will set standards and best practices, I have to disagree. No offense but Microsoft does not have the best track-record for web-standards, you could only slightly get around that by getting someone like Dave Shea or Jefrey Zeldman to design and code the templates. A good standards-tutorial in the MSDN help would be a better tool for spreading best practices

    The people who would use pre-built templates are not your typical ASP.NET coding and hosting users IMO.

    Saying all that, if you have the free-time to do this and it won’t take away from anything else then go ahead, be nice to see MS producing standards based templates.

  19. Ian Thomas says:

    Most Frontpage templates / themes are a bit twee, but I guess that’s Ok for the audience.

    My slightly off-topic comment is about this blogging software (ie, this page) – how come I can’t see all lines, whatever font size I set in IE6, at screen res of 1024 x 768?

    I guess the same comment would apply to ASP.NET templates – make sure they look OK at a range of screen resolutions.

  20. My sole request is that, whatever templates you use, please make sure you don’t make yet another table based design. Microsoft has always been WAY behind the curve on this issue. It’s taken us three releases of VS.NET before we finally get an editor that doesn’t reformat your markup (and break it in the process) and that can validate and produce valid xhtml. Please, for the love of God, if you’re going to iniclude templates, reintorduce the world the the wonderful world of semantically correct, structural markup like they do on Css Zen Garden or Zeldman or A List Apart. The last thing we need is another FrontPage inside of Visual Studio. If we .NET folks are to be taken seriously, we’ve got to start adhering to and reaping the benefits of open, established web standards.

  21. More you include, the better. Why not offer a bunch of prebuilt templates? We can use them right out of the box, or we could use them as a starting point for our own designs. Developers can learn from them as well. The thing is, if people don’t want to use them, they don’t have to.

    All templates need to be cross browser supported and validated by a validator. This is absolutely the most important point I would stress.

  22. Jeff Perrin says:

    I would love to just be able to easily add my own master page templates. Most of the sites I work on use very similar markup, and are only differentiated by the CSS. If I could easily create 3 or 4 of my own templates and then just keep re-using them, I’d be happy.

    On the other hand, having templates for master pages isn’t really a big deal at all, as far as I’m concerned.

  23. AndrewSeven says:

    I would want something that I can use in a prototype in front of a client.

    I would like to see enough of them with enough variety to see what can be done.

    A "complete" css version, with h1,h2,p,a and all other common tags styled would be nice to illustrate how to do it.

    The ability to easily include my custom layouts among the built in ones.

  24. Javier Luna says:

    I like Master Pages in VS.NET 2005 !!!

  25. I would love to have as many Templates as you can possibly provide. I am not a professional designer and do not have the resources to hire professional designers to assist in my applications.

    I am always scouring the web for design templates and base html that I can use later on in different projects.

    While this may not be of much use to poweruser application developers with large teams of people, I think it would be fantastic for smaller teams and single developers (like me) who are trying to put together nice looking applications on small budgets.

  26. jinath says:

    hi can’t we have a common set of java scripts ?

  27. First off, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Every MS attempt at including templates so far as been pretty weak (at best). [ see http://home.carolina.rr.com/aatexlawn/ ]

    Doing it right means xhtml, css, clean, sharp, and professional. This isn’t hard to do at all.

    There aren’t really that mean different template sets you need to include. Something like a blog, something with top and side nav, something with 2 columns, something with 3 columns.

    Include 2 or 3 external style sheets with each template set (not for layout so much as just the look. don’t want to get too complicated).

    I have been a strict masterpages slave for about a year now (thanks to Paul Wilson) so I really think that having at least 1 great template set is all it will take to insure that pretty much every asp.net dev will be using masterpages with asp.net 2.0. But if you include some lame templates that are written for Netscape 4.7 and IE 4, you’ll make asp.net look like the second coming of those horrible FrontPage sites from 1999-2001.

  28. Paul Glavich says:

    Personally, I think the more the better as long as the selection is well explained/articulated (for example 2 templates may look roughly the same but the technical underpinnings may be different and this needs to be made clear at the time of selection eg. 1 may use validation and tables, one may not etc…)

    I dont think you can ever have the selection to make everyone happy, and 2 or 3 well laid out templates, no matter how good, are only going to help a small percentage of people. Have them categorised well enough so that the 2 or 3 most used templates go into a separate selection area, with perhaps the "multitudes of different templates" in other selection areas.

    Also, I’d love to see a wizard of sorts to actually generate a template itself. Nothing too complex, something simple for geeneration of some of the popular/contemporary formats. Doing ASP.NET apps for company intranets means we usually have 3 or 4 basic templates which are themselves customised for a particular application/site. Be nice to have a simplistic template generation system (that can add to your supplied selection) where you can define your oompanies templates that might be selectable from whatever system you choose to implement.

  29. bwaldron says:

    Personally, I think the more the merrier when it comes to these types of things. If you look at what most people have done in the past with site design, they find a site that fits the overall design they are looking for, copy it, and make the appropriate changes.

    I think the same will hold true for Master pages so the more templates the better.

  30. Espen says:

    The templates should be available in VALID XHTML. If they aren’t, the whole Master Pages buzz is just yet another hype that we’re better off without. Then people should use stuff like SiteMesh.Net

  31. Adam Young says:

    Are you really going to be able to come up with 50 templates that are all uniquely different from one another? I think it would be better to go with half a dozen good ones, and perhaps make the selection wizard-driven, so the user can either specify colours, or select an existing style sheet, that sort of thing (you’re catering for beginner users and experienced web devs who will need a lot of control over layout, have existing templates and css they’ll want to use, etc). You might also want to allow the user to say, "yes, I want a drop down menu in this div", so they can have controls there if they want. You might also want to create templates for certain kinds of pages – e.g. login pages and search pages all tend to look the same…

  32. SimonT says:

    Anything that is w3cAAA compliant we got to gut so much stuff for accessibility reasons.

    Provided that is that asp2.0 produces compliant output for all its controls !

  33. Brian Goldfarb asks: Would it be nice to have 50 or so very professionally laid out master pages that you can use to begin building your site?

    My answer? YES. [continued]

  34. Erik Sargent says:

    For us, we would really benefit from an implementation where the master pages are pulling the design from Microsoft CMS. Today we slurp in a C-navigation type structure, do some fancy parsing and stick content/app in the middle of the C-nav.

    Unfortunetely, I either need to use templates in a parent class that all my aspx pages inhereit, which is very ugly (templates are I mean.) OR just stick controls to slurp in the Cnav on every page. Less ugly – until we have a major update of the structure of the cnav and touch every page. (hasn’t happened yet, but …)

    In order to use Master Pages, which I think we would want to do so we can get around the headaches described above, we would have to be able to slurp in the navigation elements from CMS so that marketing/communication can still have their control over the major part of site design, while we maintain control over the application and the application code.

    For a little process background, in our development environment, we do not have the staffing to take the approach of having a designer and a developer on every project, so Communications creates general specifications for UI and provides the C-navigation structure. Then we developers slurp in the nav and do our best to conform with their specs. One of ten projects gets attention from a real UI designer, but the person doesn’t know ASP.NET, and so they are still not as atonomous as you might expect because, even after buying them VS.NET, we have to work with them to explain how the ASP.NET controls relate to plain HTML – especially if we are putting a bunch of of custom user controls on the page, or more complex controls like datagrid or how validation works.

    This would be a great opportunity to show integration and synergy between product groups.


    On the specific issue of templates, it would be great to have 3-5 canned examples, but take a lesson from FrontPage and all the effort spend on themes and their canned designs. Everyone used them at first, but after a few months everyone could spot a FP site from a mile away and now no one uses them. Still, if I can just select a standard "c-nav" or "3 column" template to start with, that would be great.

  35. How about a template covering a standardized blog format? There is a pretty standard style out there, so why not provide the master page for people to roll their own?

  36. Daniel Plomp says:

    It would be great to have some great looking, basic, corporate layouts. I use a lot of CSS in my webapps, so no tables, but only css.

  37. SuryaM says:

    Pls make sure there’s way to add the bread trail of the last page visited.

    And also a way to add navigation as a part of the page.

  38. Scott Lee says:

    Templates would be very useful. I would not be able to use them at work because of predefined layouts, etc. but they would be extremely helpful for my own custom applications.


  39. MarianW says:

    The web creating world seems to be composed of two groups of people: Programmers and Designers. It is difficult to find a site building program that fuses to the two together. A designer has to know enough about ASP not to mess up how it runs and the programmer has to know enough about page layouts not to mess up how it looks.

    Most people here do both jobs and probably like me use two separate programs. I am trying out the Visual Web Developer 2005 (Express). So far its okay. I am missing "drag and drop" elements that are CSS friendly. I do NOT like using a table to structure a page layout. I would rather have external style sheets to control layout. I only use tables for listing data. I would like to see more controls for CSS.

  40. Kirksey says:

    Custom Pagination. Whether in or outside a Data Grid.

  41. Matthew says:

    Yes, having professional predefined templates would be very useful, along with well-documented best practice guidelines for building your own. I personally think that the more templates that are included, and with more variety, the more useful they will be. I personally use table-driven layouts in modt of my web apps because they are simple and well-supported, but having a mix of table and CSS templates would be great.

  42. Neil says:

    They need to work across application barriers in order to have a useful solution for those of us who do lots of branding concepts across many applications on a given web site.

  43. They must be popular because there are already at least a dozen different implementations of the concept with ASP.NET 1.1.

    I think the key is to provide really, really good documentation and tutorials, and provide the template choices as examples for further customization. In this manner you will get the highest adoption rate by the developer community. Powerpoint slide templates are a good example.

  44. Jason K says:

    Sounds good to me.

    This would be great for newbies trying to learn how to do proper layouts.

    Also it would spead up rollout times for simple projects that need to be up and running in a short time frame.

    I think you should get them Professionally done, with multiple types such as Advanced, Moderate and Simple.

    CSS should also have several options as mentioned by the others that have posted before me.

  45. don mottl says:

    At this point, I am a new user. Trying to digest the workings of what I have and getting the machine set up. Not easy, in this do-it-yourself environment. Do perfer Microsoft email however, it is so much easier (had it at work before retiring) than what I get with comcast. Miss it.

  46. Paul W says:

    I think the idea of master pages is a great one. There needs to be easy approaches to getting a common look and feel to web pages and the Master Pages concept seems to be right up that alley. Style sheets help but don’t go far enough.

  47. Chris S says:

    I think a few fully loaded templates and alot of control-less templetes would be great.

  48. Brian P says:

    I vote for a huge selection of professionally designed templates with nice professional css and controls dropped into place and everything. Full all out examples of what a real site would look like using each particular master page template.

    I agree with Charles completely…

    Also, a few ideas are a blog template, and a template that incorporates hierarchically retrieving/displaying data from SQL.

    Good luck! Looking forward to 2.0!

  49. Ken C. says:

    I would like to see the template metaphor applied to data centric web applications – we (meaning my company) have invested years in learning how to pull off data centric apps in aspx, and prior to that asp and prior to that htx(if anyone recalls that somewhat template style technology). Templates solve the consistency issue,but so does XSL/T if applied correctly. So what about apps that have data coming in and out of forms where it’s necessary to constantly modify UI dynamically? In aspx we’ve learned the hard way that if you bottle up your UI in codebehind classes, that going through the simplest of changes requires a recompile and redeployment – not exactly efficient for dynamic output, so we’ve had to port alot of the UI into XSL/T just so we can manage changes to dynamic output alot easier. The main problem is that developers still are not comfortable with XSL/T and would rather write a mountain of UI code in code behind classes (makes me cringe every time I see that kind of code), I dont see how master pages make it easier when most developers are not even comfortable with simple XSL/T.

  50. Thanks everyone for the feedback, keep it coming. We are in the process of rationalizing it right now and figuring out next steps. Many of you have said professional designer. — I can assure you I am working with an awesome designer who will deliver high quality templates, no matter what route we walk down.

    At this point there are a few things:

    1) Build controlless templates, some with CSS, some with tables

    2) Build fully functional sample apps — we have this with the Starter Kits — they will come with master pages, themes/skins, and have all the functionality baked in. In the beta you see the Personal Web Site Starter Kit, and we have several more in the pipeline like a Blog Starter Kit, Time Tracker Starter Kit, Club Site Starter Kit and others.

  51. It seems to me that the people posting to this question don’t understand the concept behind Master Pages.

    I am currently using ASP.Net 2.0 with master pages and I love them. It isn’t prebuilt templates from Microsoft. It is the ability for you to create a template for your web site. TOTALLY CUSTOMIZABLE. It allows you to keep a consitent look and feel throughout your site without having to do a copy and paste into each web page or to do includes of header and footer information.

    Each page that you build has the ability to pull in a MasterPage template. A site can have more than one master page. And with a little programming you can change the masterpage dynamically on the fly giving the user some flexibility on the look and feel that he/she likes.

  52. I would love to have some templates. I am not very creative in choosing the colors and themes so I would love that. Also if the templates could be built on skins, that would be awesome

  53. When I think about what a master page template is I envision what Marcellus was talking about.

    On almost every site I build I have a Header, Footer, Nav or Side Bar User Control. Then I create an actual page called template.aspx and I place everything on the page where it needs to be and then that is my template for the site. Each page I create I copy the html from template.aspx and paste it into my new page and then add the stuff for that specific page. I like this method but it would be great to stop the copy and paste madness and just let me inherit the template.aspx and overlay my html on top of it.

    If this is going to be another Frontpage or Interdev thing then I can promise you I won’t use it.

    I have a hard time letting something generate code for me, that is what I do.

  54. BC says:

    I currently use XSLT for my templates and have not had the opportunity to experiment with ASP.Net 2.0 (soon, though, as I transition from java to .Net). I have a master template for each of my customers so the page is formatted and presented the way they prefer, and these templates use a second template (assigned by the program) to tailor the data presentation on the page, since each customer has different requirements.

    An example of this use of templates will be helpful to me.

  55. Matt Dinovo says:

    I think that the master template is absolutely a must have — have written dozens of ASP 1.* applications with a single aspx and hundreds of ascx files to accomplish the same thing. What I’d like to see is master templates with access to the <HEAD> elements from the child pages so that I can dynamically add client scripting elements… of course, this may already be here and I just haven’t found it yet.

  56. techSage says:

    Sounds like you’re on the right track with your conclusions on 1/12, Brian. It is nice just to have the ability to use Master Pages ourselves to create site templates, but including some examples and enabling the Starter Kits with Master Pages are useful ideas as well.

  57. I am a web developer but I have to confess – I have absolutely no artistic ability whatsoever. So, a template or two would be helpful for me. In fact, I built a web site using the IBuySpy framework (now referred to as one of the ASP.Net Starter Kits) simply because I know I make "ugly" web pages. By the way, if you could create templates for help pages, that would be cool too (although the guys from RoboHelp wouldn’t be too happy!)

  58. Mike Blane says:

    <b>Comments in the source code and style sheets</b>. I know this may sound simple, but those that will need to know and understand concepts like ‘table-less data layouts’ and other advanced CSS topics may be lost in the source code, and if they don’t understand it, they will not be able to customize it to their specific needs.

  59. I have already converted our site to use master pages. Love it. It was worth the convert. I had been using two ascx controls, one for the header and one for the footer with my custom content between. You only need a few basic standard layouts to give people the idea, plus 1 or more advanced pages which include login/logout controls, company logo sidbars etc, to demonstrate the power. Also one with public properies that can be modifed by the implementing page, for example toggle the display of a sidebar.

    One thing I did which is not standard was to add a ContentPlaceHolder just after the form tag for client script that I didn’t want controlled with RegisterClientScriptBlock.

  60. Ian says:

    I don’t think a professional development shop should use templates; I think it de-values the industry and makes ASP.net developer/designers like myself not want to aspx as much. I feel development shops have a responsibility to know how to design or outsource it.

  61. We need help templates. I like the help layout and standard (left side help menu) that msn.com/hotmail.com/passport.com use. Good Luck.

  62. L Yanick says:

    I do not know how one would manage a site without Master Pages.

    I agree with the "basic" "medium" and "full-blown" approach. Not only would this provide a little something for everyone, but they would be good reference material as well. People seem to be either users of themes or not.

    At least one or 2 basic (2 & 3 column) CSS tableless layouts should definitely be included. I also like the idea of a generic but comprehensive stylesheet for non-layout elements to use as a base stylesheet.

    Since Master Pages could also allow for more content authors to particpate in maintaining a site, perhaps a simple example of a browser interface (no elaborate system, just a way to call up or create a page and get at it) allowing non-developers to either create or modify content in the content placeholders. This would help companies who are too small for a full-blown content management system to keep actual content maintenance tasks per se out of the hands of developers.

    Thanks for asking! Good luck!

  63. sdj says:

    Might be useful as examples for the junior coders out there and as an initial ideas starting-point (e.g. prototypes), but I’d very much doubt anyone out there in the real world would make much use of it.

    As long as whatever is produced is NOT Win+IE specific (easily the biggest annoyance with ASP.NET 1.x, especially in regards to the client-side JavaScript it produces, such as the continued use of "document.all", doh!).

    Here’s hoping that ASP.NET 2.x finally produces standards-compliant xhtml, css, javascript, etc.

  64. It really depends on the client as to whether I’d be able to use pre-defined templates. For some customers who don’t have a whole lot to spend, I may use a template and tweak with the colors or layouts a bit to better maximize the time I spend vs the money I’m getting, for more professional looking sites where "money is no object" they’d be less useful. However, the ability to use them if need be would be nice, but I must agree, none of the "FrontPage-look" templates, those were horrible!

  65. anonymous says:

    I agree, CSS, Tableless, Tutorial on creating, modifying, etc.

  66. neeraj uppal says:

    Excellet Idea can be a great help for web developers. I always loved the template feature provided by quickplace.

    having bare bones master page and you can add your controle I like the idea. But may be you can have few examples with controles as well.

  67. donnie huynh says:

    I would love VS-IDE to start with a masterpage instead of default page, to eliminate manual code or code removal after adding masterpage to project.

  68. I think they are absolutely ideal – particuarly for those sites where CMS is too much (or they don’t have the money!); while some may never use them, large enterprises will…

  69. ** A methodology to dynamically generate stylesheets and the declarations within them is needed. The development and management of style should be a centralized development process.

    ** Providing a user interface to allow customers to select different themes from a ddl control is not possible or is obtuse requiring goofy work-arounds due to the constraint that mandates the use of PreInit. Apparently, a new theme can only be selected after the other controls in the page class have been processed (this is as I remember and perhaps incorrectly). In any event, there should be an easy way for developers to make it possible to write code to enable customers to select and change themes on demand.

    ** CSS templates (without tables).

    ** I believe a nascent industry in Master Page and template designs can emerge and should emerge so I’d rather see Microsoft expend its resources towards creating the templating framework rather than providing implementations OOTB, i.e. one or two templates used to get the point across but an elegant and refined framework which allows designers with coding experience to take over.

    ** Customer defined zone methodology to enable customer’s to dynamically select and generate their preferred template choices.


    ** Provide a tool or document a process that will generate an inventory of all controls distributed with the framework and the respective properties of each control that can be modified using style declarations. Writing .skin files without a reference document for controls is currently very time consuming.

    Thanks for this opportunity…

    <%= Clinton Gallagher

  70. Bluebasec says:

    The people who are using the apps are normal people nowadays…not just developers anymore but sitting at home trying to integrate.

    More online help for my grandma….

    The layout from the groups in MSN —

    how to connect to the group and display and extract some usefull information in the pages created inside the groups.More intelligent fields.

    Font scalling

    API to connect to other databases NON Microsoft.

    Tight integration to Lotus Address books and databases..

    When will this happen….after this we can add colour….:o)

    Just to name a few….

  71. scottt40 says:

    I am planning to use 2.0 in developing a series of web apps and love the idea of Master Pages. The more premade stuff we have the better I like it. I would like to use different master page layouts with the similar color schemes for various types of pages. I for static content, and another for portal or web parts pages for personlization. Please spend some time in thinking about creating controls that you can customize to show the input data form when no data exists for a user.

  72. Well it all depends on how much functionality you want to give away vs. actually making us think a little bit. A few starter templates would be ok I guess but I would rather see some very nice walkthroughs instead. This would make the developer go through the process of building something vs. it getting handed over and not knowing how in the world it works. Why would anyone even take the time to figure out how it works if it’s handed to them? (unless you are a true hopeless computer fiend like me) That’s just my opinion…

  73. Kamal says:

    It would be a nice feature. However, it would be better if the developers could customize the built-in templates, add to template collection (possibly from web downloads, just like office clipart).

    Also, it is very important to not tie the templates too tightly with the Master Page concept. That is, provide for "no templates too".

  74. stevenh says:

    <br>The possibilities of CSS are on stunning display at:
    <br><a target="_new" href="http://www.csszengarden.com/">http://www.csszengarden.com/</a&gt;.
    <br>It would benefit the area of templating if –
    <br>(1) create several basic and simple pages (per Keven Dente)
    <br>(2) Display the skinning of css with several themeatic options.
    <br>(3) make sure that there are ample samples that do not use extensive (or any) graphics. (It is amazing what one can do with gradients, and expressions).

  75. Matt says:

    They might come in handy for intranet apps, but in order to be used more widely, as in public Internet sites, they would need to be able to handle complex page layouts. It would help you if you went out to say 25 top Internet sites (corporate and commercial) with really nice and complex HTML layouts, and ask yourself if the templates could allow for developers and designers to "stuff" those types of advanced layouts in them. They typically have a lot of nested tables, conditional formatting, layers, etc. If you could accomplish that, all while still allowing for the use of best practices for both CSS/HTML and inheritance, then hell yes, I would use them!

    It would save me a lot of time, since right now I use the typical practice of building template page classes that inherit from the base Page class, then I add user controls to that.


  76. Rajiv says:

    I think master page is am awesome idea. It’s gonna save us some time on selection of layout. and also given us a brief idea of how the final page may look like. It’s definitely gonna give a quick and easy start for development. All the best…..!

  77. Shafki says:

    it will defiantly save time…

  78. I read a few replies stating the horrible FrontPage themes. I strongly disagree with those. The ideas used in themes were very progressive. And you cannot argue about taste. It is like paintings. Some like them some don’t

    But in terms of functionality. The way shared borders were implemented was helpfull. Of course you can create that sort of effect yourself with User Controls, but still I liked the functionality. Just as the navigation stuff with headers and button bars. These work fine for smaller web sites with static pages. This definitely should be in.

    Or take a look at the Portal Example with common functionality blocks for web sites like login, search, content, admin etc.

    So templates for me are to parts; visual and functional.

  79. AKilani says:

    No controls please. In my point of view this only adds to the frustration of using them if any wanted to use them. Thanks for your efforts.

  80. Chad Carter says:

    The more unique page layouts, the better. Even if they aren’t professionally done, if they are good solid examples it will be worth it. I definitely want to see examples of master pages within master pages — for example Corporate site with different divisions having their own look and feel inside of the main template.

    I think the biggest help would be having different layouts that are dependant on CSS that work in all major browsers.

    It would be nice to have a few templates where the .master page didn’t change at all … and if you associate different .css files it can greatly affect the look and feel. (like http://www.csszengarden.com)

    Master Pages are great! I can’t wait until 2.0 is released so I can throw away the 1.1 "Master Page" templates we have in place now.

    Thanks for asking!

  81. Yes, I’d find sample master pages/themes very useful. Features I’d like to see:

    — Cross Browser compatibility

    — Lightweight

    — Good documentation, including implementation hints

    — Maybe a couple of version that actually DO contain controls, specifically the membership and menu controls (and maybe search)

    — Different themes for different types of apps (ecommerce, portal, discussion forums, blogs, intranet, marketing, etc)

    I love Master Pages and Partial Classes!

  82. While you’re at it, please add more styles for DataSets and such. AutoFormat is a handy tool, why are there so few built in styles? Thanks 😛

  83. Darren Kopp says:

    This is what i think:

    Master Pages with templates will attract a lot of people that are new to programming with ASP.NET and will let a lot of people jump onto the net with fully functioning sites quickly. It will also promote site hosts to quickly adopt ASP.NET. Now I don’t know a lot about master pages, but will they be completely customizable? Or will it be just the templates? I would find a great use to make templates where i can create user controls and add them to the template, then just use the template so i won’t have to add user controls to each page.

    hope this helps.



  84. SureShot says:

    Echoing some of the statements here, definitely all templates should work in Netscape 7/Firefox.

    – standards compliant

    – Some CSS tableless layout with some content thrown in there so people get an example of how to float:





    – a layout with a header, tab menu, and 3 columns below that

    – have controls dropped in with different alignments as examples. they can be deleted easily to customize.

    – adding to templates would be awesome so people in the community can work on them as well

  85. Tim Farlow says:

    A few templates would be great. The key is including best practices around:

    1. Master page templates

    2. Style sheets

    3. Themes

    4. Skins

    5. Globalization

    Also, including serval sample color palettes would be very helpful.

  86. Darshan says:

    I am a freelance trainer/developer, and I get consulting jobs every now and then to build web-sites for all kinds of businesses.

    Since I dont have a team of Professional Web Developers to help me out with all the graphics and things of that nature for web-sites, I end up doing all the work my self.

    Therefore, I just love the Master template in ASP.NET 2.0, makes my task a whole lot easier.

    Also I am looking into CSS and I am beginning to like it.

    Therefore, I an looking forward to the whole Master page (same look and feel, easy to create Interface) of ASP.NET 2.0

    I havent actually used ASP 2.0, but I saw what it can do during the Jan-Feb 2004 .NEt Roadshow.

  87. Darshan says:

    I have been researching XML and XSLT, and recently heard about XAML. So, it would be nice to get away from CSS and be able to implement XSLT instead.

    (Just my opinion.)

  88. Ikram Haq says:

    Great idea.

    I am a developer for Share Point portal and if we could something similar to that. Pre-made pages with Div’s, CSS , some basic controls. Starter Templates I call them and then as a developer I could add or remove items. The end purpose should be to quickly make very professional pages that have the same look and feel. Similar to Microsoft Products. Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.

  89. I believe Microsoft should build maybe about 10 professional looking ones based around some standard types of websites.

    Standard Corparate Website

    Standard Intranet Site

    Database App

    Reporting App

    Blog Application

    People will be able to adapt the colour scheme and move the pages around easily. But it would at least give them a jumping off point for them to start from.

    In the long run third party design outfits are likely to feel this gap so I would not be massively worried about it. 😉


  90. Brian, with all this feedback, in all different directions, I’m wondering if you came up with anything? Are you planning a follow up post with your intentions?

  91. Hans says:

    Imho, the whole masterpage hype results from a design fault: aspx-files aren’t part of the page class, and the partial classes using master pages are just a quick workaround of this error.

    The best Master Page template was a clean and simple object model to derive from myself.

  92. Scott — Great question – -there is some amazing feedback here and I’m definitely still trying to rationalize it all against priorities, budgets, and timing. There are some consistent themes appearing in the feedback and I’m working right now with a professional design firm to put together a proposal based almost entirely on the feedback here. Unfortunately, with a few different travel commitments by both myself and the designer we haven’t had a chance to sync yet. My goal is to have a plan for this project together by the end of the week and will definitely post a new blog entry with the proposed plan.

    Big thanks to everyone here for the feedback, I don’t thikn we would have been able to do this effectively otherwise.

  93. Ken Vives says:

    I agree that some barebones and some more developed. I think that having a menu and navigation system examples would be great.

    Like rather than having "pre-baked" controls, have several good templates and then several examples where you show how to pre-bake controls into the templates. I think most would appreciate learning the process of how you would do it more than have it served up.

  94. Jan Vandorpe says:

    The only thing I want is to be able to save my own template(s). When I decide upon a style and a design for a website, I want to save features like colours, layout and possible a dhtml menu as

    a template. Will I be able to do this? then that will be enough.

    cheers! Jan

  95. Benjamin says:

    Why don’t you start by porting the MS Office templates (especially Powerpoint and Word) ?

  96. It is true, that with the help of it will be easier to create simple web applications in a very short time (just by clicking all things together)

    Therefore ASP.NET will be more and more attractive for these common hobby programmers who currently prefer out-of-the-box tools of PHP.

    But what I really miss is more support for real professionals. I never had a project that was just so simple to just out-of-the-box Controls. I allways needed a connected Business object at the Textbox-Control. I allways needed a customized Login-Control and -validation a.s.o. I never used uncustomized DataGrid-Control, ViewState or something of these other cool features.

    The same will be with the most of the new things with .NET 2.0. They make it easy for hobbist programmers but are not very usefull for mid to large projects.

  97. A combination of WinLIKE (www.winlike.net) with Masterpages and a good integration in VS would be great. Then I could easely create web applications in one layout that looks like real Windows apps.


  98. Peter Hiross says:

    I like the idea of having a wizard driven approach. Rather then defining 10 or 15 master pages, have a single wizard that could take feed back and design a template of choice. I like the idea of exposing page properties to control functionality as well, i.e. a dynamic master page.

  99. Not sure if this has been posted but I haven’t had time to read through all of the posts. If it has then I offer my apologies. One of the items mentioned in the original post was menus. Aside from all of my "big corporate world enterprise web application" work I also do some work in DotNetNuke. The biggest issue I run into is with vertical menus. I believe that this is being addressed for DNN in the upcoming 3.X release. If you are looking into menus for Master Pages (templates) then a well funtioning horizontal and vertical menu would be greatly appreciated… P.S. Thanks for asking for the input. I’ll have to check your blog more often.

  100. Master Page is the Best Way for ASP.NET…

    Thanks brian…

  101. A few templates would be great. The key is including best practices around:

    Menu Client Side

    Calender Multi language

    OutLook Bar

  102. One more quick update — I met with a designer yesterday to hash out some of the last minute details of this project based on your feedback. I think I should have a proposal ready for next week and will post a new blog entry with what we decided. Of course, once it is done, I’ll want more ‘direct’ feedback.

    Thanks again everyone for your valuable insight!

  103. Well, there is the Format app for making tables look nice and there are quite a few choices from which to pick. I love this feature in VWD as well as the other RAD softwares that offers it. It keeps me coding and not worrying if I my colors are complimentary. So, as far as the question to how many Master templates is enough, I say: Bring Them On!

  104. Brian Goldfarb asks: Would it be nice to have 50 or so very professionally laid out master pages that you can use to begin building your site?

    My answer? YES. [continued]

  105. Parag Kantharia says:

    Dear Sir,

    Its a lovely Idea, you have been inspired with.

    Let me clearly focus, why i really appreciate your idea.

    (1) First of all with the express tools, you are welcoming the newcommers, students and hobbyists also, with a margin of just $49.

    (2) The community to take the advantage of the price as well as mouth watering advantages will be very very huge.

    (3) Do not take only developers into consideration at this stage. With the maximum advantages of asp.net 2, many web designers will also jump in to web programming as well. They will take small projects, if cannot handle big projects, but their huge presence will be definately there.

    (4) Authors of good books, generally spend more pages on technical aspects, rather than real work approach. No good programming is going to work, without a good design. I have not seen a single page with just coding and no design at all. Web Designing is like a cloth and programming ads stiches to it, to convert it into either Trouser or shirt. Both are useless without each other. One cannot depend only on good technical books for good designing.

    (5) Your templates will act as a quick jump start as well act as guidelines too. I think you may please read all the answers in this thread and think about providing best of stuff.

    (6) Do not forget, Visual Web Developer was born from small inspiration like WebMatrix and DNN is born from inspiration like IbuySpy. The starter kits are a great sucess and Now this idea will really boom.

    You can take my words for granted. Yes one more last suggestion. Please get the work done from professionals only. At least provide few templates with controls, giving a guideline to students also, after all they are going to be senior developers tomorrow.


    parag kantharia

  106. bgold says:

    The first part of the design center is finally coming to life — be sure to check it at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/asp.net/reference/design/

  107. HILLBILLY says:


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