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Some documents seem to have a life of their own, making you wonder, “Who designed this?!” Even in today's information age, not everyone has the skillset of a designer. Even templates—pre-made forms you just drop content into—can be annoying for business users, despite the fact that they are supposed to be easy and efficient.

When designing your templates, select a format most people have seen before, such as Word documents. This allows you to easily include other content, such as graphics and tables, insert data fields from external data sources, and basically leverage all the formatting features within Word. Additionally, we've included
some additional tips to keep in mind when designing new templates.

1. Know Your Audience

This is the first rule of thumb in any type of communication. Templates are an important tool for customer communications management (CCM). They help improve customer engagement by providing a document workflow that makes sense and by integrating automated information, such as customer data to personalize communications. Your particular industry (e.g., financial services, government, insurance, or small- and medium-sized business) will also have an impact on your template needs.

2. Think in Terms of Building Blocks

Templates should be modular, allowing you to design in small or logical packets with the ability to add content later as more information, or complexity, is required. This helps to avoid overwhelming the user with a monster template, which might not look very appealing (or get used).

3. Take Advantage of Integration Features

The easiest way to add document assembly capabilities to your internal systems, like Microsoft Dynamics, is to integrate templates within your document solution. The majority of CCM solution providers offer a configurable solution that can provide document output functionality leveraging the information in your enterprise core system or within a workflow with just a click of a button. You can configure templates to connect to your applications and make data available for template execution. This feature can embed repetitive date and pertinent customer information into your templates, saving time and adding customization features.

4. Variety Is the Spice of Life

Templates can be built to include variations, offering different design or layout options and style choices while sustaining core functionality and the code base. By offering choices, you’re giving users an opportunity to tweak the look or content for the customer's benefit.

5. Future-proof Your Design

Make your template easy to maintain and simplify updates. Also, to protect work in progress, be sure to compile, preview, and back up documents under development. No one likes to perform tasks twice.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be on your way to creating templates that are appealing and easy to use. The long-term payoff is the ability to generate a workflow that enhances customer satisfaction and retention.

David Squibb is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Xpertdoc Technologies Inc, a leader in the customer communications technology industry. Contact David at or follow him on Twitter @David_Squibb.