Social networking templates and dating templates - our take.

Andrew Boon posted 26th of December 2010 in News. 32 comments.

As you know we don't provide a bunch a of design templates with Dolphin anymore. Surely, community sites, social networks and dating sites should have their unique designs, though. Moreover, we used to be in the lead in "templates" business and provided a lot of design templates adding new ones with every version. We still get questions and suggestions, like: "why don't you add an additional Facebook-like theme?" or "an included adult dating template would skyrocket your sales". We still don't do it. We probably will never do it and this position is strengthening to the point that I would argue that anyone who provides community software with lots of templates is diluting quiality of their product and selling "packaging" that you don't need. Deceitful upselling. Here's why:


Mass-production of dating and social networking templates defeats their purpose.


The main reason for using a non-standard template for your dating or social networking site is to make it look special, unique, different. To achieve that you need to (ideally) build it yourself, or order a custom one. As a compromise, you may take a design package from a smaller provider that only sells a handful of their products every month.


A template that has bold, unique attributes that make it stand out should never be shared with too many sites, or you're in risk of being recognized as a design thief. Thus, a generic, universal template that you customize via admin panel would work worlds better than a set of colorful rainbows and same smiling people found on a few hundreds of sites. In other words simple square cookies with different icing are perceived as unique a lot more than same gingerbread-men cutouts. You get the drift.


Large, experienced software providers worked it out long ago, and so you only get basic templates from Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal and, yes, BoonEx, too. Smaller providers still try to inflate value of their products by throwing in some bright and colorful designs. I think it's wrong, very wrong, almost dishonest and users should know why. There more to it...


If template is just and extra, it can't hurt, right? Wrong!


Ever wondered why Apple doesn't include a dozen of "extra/free/bonus" case covers with their iPads? That's because tastes differ, while you still pay for extras. There's no such thing as "free" product. Somebody has to pay for it. If you get templates - you pay for all of them. You pay for their development, ongoing support, testing, etc. What's worse - you would likely only use one of them, but you have to pay for the "maintenance" of all of them.


Development and testing for more than one template adds massive additional burden to the software provider. In our experience, a few additional templates may double version development time. That's true for any social networking or dating software, no matter what kind of templating engine they use, and how streamlined are their operations.



  • you get a template that's also used by hundreds of other sites
  • you pay for all the included templates
  • you wait longer for version updates
  • you get increased chances of bugs occurrences in your template
  • feature development and bug-fixing time is sacrificed for a more attention-grabbing practice of templates designing

Not cool.


Templates make good money. Not for you.


Been there, know that. When we were offering design templates we knew only too well that every new design would make a healthy sales-jump. We loved it. The other side of the coin was that we had to close eyes at some... discrepancies and tradeoffs that were quickly building up. Namely:

  • Adding every new feature called for integration to all templates, but sometimes their designs couldn't accomodate, so we had to come up with excuses like "this template doesn't support zodiac signs", "you can't edit boxes titles in this template", or "this template is not compatible with version X.Y.Z yet (read - and it never will)".
  • Bug reports and bug fixes always had to be processed considering the template in use. Just as an additional factor, like browser, web server, hosting OS, etc. Using more than one at once worsened it. But, what if the template didn't sell well, or was clumsy from day one. We'd just slowly depreciate it, by not adding display of new functionality. This is not unique to us. Such is the nature of web development.
  • Website usability and accessibly guidelines can not be properly maintained across many templates. Zooming would break pictures; different navigation presentation brought unmanageable amount of layout variations, conflicting with menu builders; font faces, text sizes, line brakes and space constraints (all multiplied by language differences) would kill any uniformity and could not be duly regarded in all templates.
  • more, more, more.

It still made money, though. Produced more refunds, yes. More negative reviews, yes. More frustration, support queries, complaints, unhappy clients, yes. Still, money talked, but, as Master Yoda said "The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny." At some point we have been able to make the right decision...


The virtuous approach to providing community, dating and social networking site templates.


As I noted before, this is the way most reputable web software developers choose for years. There must be one, or maybe 2-3 at a maximum very generic templates that are very easy to customize and build upon.


In Dolphin, we continuously work on making our default design universal. We plan to bring some MAJOR improvements in it in 7.1 as well. Ideally, webmaster should be able to significantly change site design using the default template. No issues during version upgrades, no troubles with new elements display, no compatibility flaws.


Now, many web-masters would rightfully want special look for their adult dating site or a social network for young musicians, or what not. That must be done by 3rd-party template developers that specialize in it, live and breath templates, upgrade them on time, check them, install them, charge for one template at a time, or even design custom designs for you...


The hard work of 3rd party template providers.


If you read carefully, by now you know that development and support of a good social software template is not a trivial undertaking. It takes a lot of work and time. It only pays off if the software is popular enough and demand for templates is significant. We are fortunate enough to see some developers offering quality templates via BoonEx Unity Market at very fair prices or even for free.


At Unity Market you'd find templates for Facebook-like sites, adult-themed sites, colorful generic templates, as well as integration and custom development services. We believe that this is as good as it gets - a secondary market that offers you real choice without messing with development process of the software.


Choose good provider, quality template and you'll win. Don't buy into flashy stacks of pre-made designs that come with (mostly dating) software.


Browse dating, social networking, adult and niche community templates at BoonEx Unity Market


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Hi i agree but the only problem is its not easy to create a template for someone like me with limited skills , will this ever be made more easy in the future as its not at the moment. a system like the diy social network builders were its more easy to change the basic layout. plus the templates are not cheap they could be cheaper. thanks
Andrew Boon
True, with "services" like DIY social network builders, it's all built-in and maintained. With your own site - you need more skills. Dolphin 7.1 will have a much better default template and Dolphin 8 would have a whole different approach.
Hello; I am new to Dolphin and I look forward to hopefully years of growth and good fortune using this software. I understand, appreciate and agree with most of the comments made here, but I would like to add the following;

Software developers should also maintain a platform that is stable, secure and easily upgradable. Gone are those days (or gone should be those days) where every version would be a nightmare to upgrade to a point where users stayed away from updates because it was a fearful see more experience (incompatibility issues and downtime).

Yes you have many fabulous 3rd party developers that create some wonderful snippets of code that make life a bit easier for us, but it could all fall apart on the next "big" version. I have noted this includes even the most simplest of templates or modules. Visiting forums and reading the different comments I noted that there were compatibility issues between two version that were released one after the other. This creates a nightmare for all of us; the developer, the third party developer (whose livelihood also depends on this) and of course the user. We are all in it together, if a product is good we all benefit and hopefully make a living.

If software was developed with some strict standardization and limited customization (by 3rd parties) then there would not be a need for such a drastic difference between versions of the same software. The next version released would be a gentle extension of the previous one with improved functionality and corrected issues or bugs. It seems this is not always the case.
(*Contd from previous post)

If the above statement were to be held true then a multitude of templates would not cause any site to crash or become inoperable due to an incompatibility between 2 versions. I am not suggesting that cookie cutter templates are a good idea; my point is that with the correct foundation there would be fewer issues during upgrades.

I am on version 7.0.4 and I sincerely hope that upgrades from here on in are smooth. I am looking forward to many fruitful and exciting see more years here.
You could not have said this any better, just having to upgrade a site give me nightmares!!
has boonex in anyway did get any collective requirements/expectations from Unity members?
atleast for some understanding?
Andrew, have you consider offering the default template in two flavors, So that the user can have the option of a layout with horizontal navigation or a layout with vertical navigation ?
Nathan Paton
@silverado350: You could also purchase one of the templates with a vertical navigation menu from the market or hire a designer to create your own.
paulo rodrigues
as an owner and not a programmer, it would be nice to see more control of the template in the back end. such as graphics and back ground images i find the lay out to be good. would love to see the ease of of adding new page links to the footer and the header I stated owner not programmer which places me at the mercy of the skill sets of others.I know that this is about templates but let me add as an adult community owner it would be nice to see more payment gateways that are adult friendly see more such as and an ability in the video section for members to paste embedding video code from other sites.

thank you for your time
Not providing templates in abundance to members is the best service possible.

Like mentioned it leaves the time to improve the actual functions of the software instead of the looks.

Having free templates ready and available would just cause billions of wannna be's to open a site with out even planning what that site would serve a purpose for.

...what would the web look like with ten thousand 'yahoo' or 'facebook' or 'youtube' look-alikes?

Please! Leave the design up to those willing to see more seriously invest in a 'one of the kind' design for their software as you are doing.

Let them buy the cake mix and icing separately :)

And one last thing, if any designers go WAY too cheap on design work, then they are adding to the problem.

We saw this happen in the past ten years in traffic exchanges online, first it started with the gurus owning million dollar sites, then every single affiliate out there decided to get one going to because the sofware was cheap BUT also some real shady designers came in offering website wrappings for $125.00 or less complete with a set of banners and splash pages.

This resulted in thousands of exchanges popping up all over the place - hence gone are the days of UNIQUE' website traffic exchanges.

Trust me - i designed a few - I know :)
paulo rodrigues
let me respond to teenzup about wanna be's everyone starts off as wanna be's it is through time and a willingness to learn that one grows. I for one don't have the time to fully immerse myself in the programming when there are many other jobs an owner must face as well. so let's be nice to those just starting off because the skill set is only one part of the game,... they may have the next big idea and become the next facebook, myspace,myyearbook and countless others...i agree that with more control see more over the template that would free the programmer the ability to concentrate on mod's aimed at content and services which would make dolphin ahead of the rest. this is my first site with dolphin as i have tried engines like phpfox and joomala ...
@paulo rodrigues /// yes I used the term 'wanna be's' losely, I should have termed it 'netprenuers'
..anyone online is a 'wanna be' or socially nicley speaking 'netprenuer' ...

I take the 'wanna be' wording back - it's not a nice way to coin a phrase.

I am a 'wanna be' too - I wanna be the next 'facebook owner' too

So does everyone - and I agree with you some don't have the time or a lot of cash to start off with.
While I do agree, I have to admit, creating a template with the software currently is hard if you have little to no knowledge of web programming.. I look forward to D8 if it'll be made easier! same with creating profile templates for our users.. it's not as easy as one may hope...
Disagree and maybe one of several reasons why Dolphin 7 is not going to be a market leader. To expect the owner of a Dolphin to sort out the templates and hire a developer is silly. Is this system not supposed to be 'user-friendly'?

Quote above:
I have to admit, creating a template with the software currently is hard if you have little to no knowledge of web programming..

This is true. Why do you choose for the user and decide that having similar templates is a bad idea? Let the user decide. see more As for the templates needing the update etc. Well, make it modular and easier to integrate! I have been trying to find a good template or to customise Dolphin but it is hard to find one without paying lots of money. Some of the templates offered are really poor. Give users a reason to stay with Dolphin! Your first post above does not really encourage that and please do stop comparing yourself with Apple/Mac or other sites. Do something different and be the leader.
RE: "I have to admit, creating a template with the software currently is hard if you have little to no knowledge of web programming"

Just about everything is hard if you do not have the required knowledge. It's a good thing some people aren't stopped by that fact, and take the initiative to learn something new. If you don't want to learn new things, you will forever be at the mercy of others.
After spending the past couple of weeks learning Dolphin, the template issue is reminiscence of PHP Nuke with long hours of tweaking a theme. Nevertheless, you read my mind . . . I was about to post a 'wishlist' for Dolphin :)

One of the 'wishlist' items is a built-in template editor similar to what and use on their networks. SocialGo's theme customization is a flash based widget that sits in the Admin area. They have a standard design that you can customize, but if see more you want something different, then you have to hire a programmer. Meetup's is a custom code they use. Meetup does not allow moving components around, however SocialGo does allow it. Both make site customization 100 times easier by allowing easy editing of the basic template. This feature comes in handy when you are a Non-Profit or low on funds.
What I don´t like about Dolphin look is that 99,99% of the sites look pretty much the same. No matter what color or layout changes are applied, it´s always boxes here and there, and that, to me, is maybe the biggest issue with any dolphin site...
I am having good success with my beginner site using Dolphin. I have been in the project management over web development for years for companies and I must say that the ease of installing and all components working for me has been a breath of fresh air. I agree with the comments about template design...I think it is best to start out with basic and make your adjustments per customer or per site. You just can't please them all and no sense in making a template of hours worth of designing and no one see more buy or use it. I simply went in with a basic template and theme that I wanted and replaced images throughout my site to give it the look and feel I wanted....and it rocks! :) As long as everything is working as it should be...I can't complain one bit!
cwebart - well you will see shortly that not all things are smooth as you think, many features dont work correctly and some features dont work at all - but dolphin still getting closer and closer to stable reliable release by every new version. Hope 7.1 will be finally usable for live real site...
It think it's great that template designers are available to help bring something different to what the default template has to offer. Though it must be difficult for them to offer support on all their templates when ever a new upgrade of dolphin comes out.

I chose the other option of adjusting the default template. I have changed colours of lines, backgrounds, fonts etc etc, to create something that inevitably looks similar to the original design but still something of my own creation. I chose see more this path because the more changes you make, the more difficult it is to upgrade to a newer version. I started with Dolphin at v5.3 and going from 5.3 to 5.4 for example was not really a problem, but from v5.6 to v6.0 and then from v6.5 to v7.0 was quite an undertaking.

Though it may prove to be a challenge, it is also an opportunity to bring a new lease of life to your website by introducing some new design changes while trying to maintain a similar look to what you had previously as the one thing I have noticed is that your members do not actually like too much of a change.

My recommendation to make changing the default template a much simpler process is to learn the basics of HTML and CSS and to get a program such as Adobe Photoshop to assist you in making changes to the images in the default template. Though before applying any change, have a backup ready to go of the CSS, HTML or image before of what you had before the change in case something goes wrong and you need to quickly revert back to what you had.
Continued from previous post.....

In Photoshop you can save the colour adjustments you make and then reload it and apply it to other images which makes it easier to maintain the look of say something like the navigation menu which is made up of many pieces.

If you have the time then this is a great way to develop your skills but for those that struggle for time or really can't be arsed, then they always have the many templates to choose from.

Just my two cents worth. Hope this helps some see more of the newbies.
I could not agree more! absoultely true i.e. the first posted blog.
re>> What I don´t like about Dolphin look is that 99,99% of the sites look pretty much the same. No matter what color or layout changes are applied, it´s always boxes here and there, and that, to me, is maybe the biggest issue with any dolphin site...<<<

That's actually what I like about it... to change it you gotta have a bunch of bucks, or a bunch of patience, there are too many sites popping up all over the place with 'flip the switch and create' technology - you can spot see more them in a minute.

They are not not yours... nor are they unique.

With dolphin it is really hard - and I love it because it becomes a challenge and if my site(s) turn out to be a real hit - then the challenge is like winning a race of any kind - you become the champion and no one can steal that moment away.

Yes... it's tedious to learn grrrrr... but once you get it done - it's like a cool glass of crystal clear sparkling water on a hot sweltering day in the Sahara ----mmmm water :)
I don´t compete with anybody. If you like to be in a race of equals, that´s your choice, not mine. I´d like to see that it is possible to have a Dolphin site not to look like a Dolphin site. So far, I couldn´t find one. You may easily say, "well, if you don´t want it to look like Dolphin, then don´t get Dolphin..." Yes, you may. But that´s not the point.
You mentioned "bunch of bucks". I understand that you´d rather stay cheap instead of investing in something see more unique. That, again, is your choice, not mine.
Anybody, please send me urls of Dolphin sites that don´t look like Dolphin UNO template.
Thanks to all.
Andrew Boon
Here you can see what means changing the look of a website , playing with CSS:
There are a few things that every template seller and every users expect, if not in D7 than at least in D8..
Just to mention a few of the things Dolphin currently lacks:
- Template installation (zip pack) and uploading right from the Admin Panel. (there is a ticket for this and of course it was post-poned for v 7.1)
- The "tools" to FULLY edit the layout and the menu, not just some unadjustable insert code
- A flexible layout - full width blocks followed right under by 3 other blocks see more that share the 100% width of the layout.
- Editable promo block, completely adjustable for each template, files stored on template folder.

There are many other things that are cutting your wings every time you try to create something really unique..
We need those improvements, we need to sort our priorities out.. and in my opinion the number 1 priority should be to create the tools to allow individuals and developers to make unique designs, to allow them to create great variety on the web..

I saw many design related tickets and feature requests pushed at the end of the TRAC queue.. This is one of the reasons is so hard to create templates for D7.. not to mention creative and unique layouts..
I totally agree with DolphinTemplate.

DeeEmm´s websites are what I call more of the same. It doesn´t matter where you put each category (people, videos, music, etc.) they´re all the same or almost identical icons, boxes, colours, etc.

What I mean is that I´d like to see a Dolphin site to look, for instance, like any other social script websites (not going to give any names because that´s not the point).

Regards to all and wish you all have an amazing 2011!
I have lost faith in Boonex/Dolphin templates due to being messed around by a template designer (derarmedia) and the top designers not having any time to create custom templates. The templates on the market are mainly targeted towards dating or adult sites and the clones are just that, clones and do not work properly in my view.

I would love for a designer to come out and say they can help create something that will work for your site and for it to be reliable
Dolphin Template has NO SUPPORT for their templates! Even though he claims he offers "unlimited support" and "free customization tips" "within 24 hours", that is a total lie!! He takes your money, then disappears!!

I have tried for TWO WEEKS to get help with an error message and to tell me how to change font colors (simple stuff) ... yet NINE emails, and NO RESPONSE!! I even asked for a refund, since I cannot get help and this template has caused error with my see more site, but still NO RESPONSE. I have now filed a claim with PayPal to get my money back.

I have now wasted over TWO WEEKS on getting my membership site running, which has caused a loss of money to me too.

Save your money and your time ... DON'T purchase templates from Dolphin Template ... he does NOT offer support, as he promises all over his website. He just takes your money, then you're on your own with the template problems ...
can anyone create a dating template and plugin like zoosk? if anyone can also cheapin would be great so we can share the cost.
can anyone create a dating template and plugin like zoosk? if anyone can also cheapin would be great so we can share the cost.
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