Sometimes I hear people say that working from a template stifles their creativity and is boring for the learner. I would argue the opposite is true. Having a template ensures that there is consistency in the main UX functions of your learning (the navigation and the location of elements used in your learning) and frees you to be more creative in how you get your message across. Rather than spending time getting everything to function the way you want, testing to ensure it all works and wondering how to put your story together, you can focus on what will make it good learning and how it will help alleviate a problem, change a behaviour, or introduce a concept.
Too often we start our design faced with a blank screen and spend a lot of time thinking how to put our learning together. A template file will help. So let's talk about what a template file in Articulate Storyline really is with these four important parts of a template file.
1. Consistent Navigation
If your user has to think about how they move about within your learning, what is an interactive element (e.g. something I press), compared to a visual cue, then you have failed them, they are distracted by this confusion and lose sight of the story or concept you are aiming to get across.
So what is consistent navigation? It's having any clickable or interactive object be the same shape, colour, state change across all these objects. Make sure everything you add to the design has a specific purpose.
2. Visual Hierarchy
Your eye is drawn to what is more colourful, bold or larger on a screen or page. So, use this to your advantage but be consistent in your approach. A slide or page heading should be a larger font than the rest o the content but should also be the same across all pages. It seems simple but is so often missed. If a key concept needs to be addressed in your learning then use colour and boldness to draw attention to it. We see visual hierarchy used so well in magazines, but overlooked in elearning. Google it and you will find a lot of resources to help you nail this concept. Here's one I've found with a great explanation of visual hierarchy: https://zevendesign.com/designers-guide-to-visual-hierarchy.
3. Master Your Masters
You have to use your slide masters and feedback masters wisely and set everything up ahead of time so you don't have to worry about it later. This will include your background images, logos, custom help and menu buttons, additional layers - accessible across all slides, branding colours, fonts layouts and placeholders. It's a key part of having a working template file and there are some do's and don'ts to setting this up. Your feedback masters are typically for question feedback, but can be so much more if you use it well.
4. More Than Just A Single Interaction
When people think of a template, they often refer to it as a single interaction. I look at it as so much more than that. Creating a template file is the solid grounding and starting point that incorporates all the slide types and interactions you might use in creating learning. In Storyline (and many other authoring tools) that means having all the interactions you would typically use (Title, Tabs, Text-Graphic, Click-Reveals, Questions, Results Slides and more) all housed within the same template file, and all on brand and fully functional, so you can focus on how to create your story rather than how to build an interaction.
In summary, having a template file created before I start developing any learning has saved me 100's of hours in elearning development time. There are so many more things to think about when creating a template file and you can learn more in my online course - Mastering Elearning Templates In Storyline.