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My view is that if you are builiding this one website and don't intend to build any more after that, stick with the pre-fab.
If you want to build more web sites and really get to grips with HTML and CSS build it yourself.
The layouts that come with CS4 are solid enough but also you'll find plenty of layouts out there if you want them.
For myself, even though I'm a novice, I find working with someone else code is like wearing someone elses' shoes. It fits but never comfortably. If I build it myself, I know what everything does.
I would agree with Martcol. The best way to learn is to have to do it yourself. That way you know what's going on with your page and even more importantly why. I was in the same position when my company asked me to re-do our website. I knew the basics but had a lot of learning to do.
The way we approached it was we went to different sites and looked at what the standards seemed to be as far as layouts and design was concerned. We also noted any effects or features that we liked and how we could integrate something similar into our website. Then I researched the best way to implement our final product. (ie: standards based code, multi-browser friendly) The internet, and this forum are full of helpful people and tutorials on how to get it done.
Finally, I recommend using PHP to run the inventory part of your page. Use a template page for your 72 items and then load individual information from a database into that template. It is much more efficient and will not only save you space on the webserver but also bandwidth. Not to mention having to manage 72 sperate pages. I had to do the exact same thing. I knew nothing of PHP when I first started. Now we have a pretty powerful Inventory page all based on php.
Good Luck with your project!
Thanks for your help and advise. The PHP sounds like a great idea!
I was going to start with an elastic 2 col / header/ footer Layout then put in my own CSS and customize with my design effects then use this as my template for my other pages. Is this a good way to begin the construction? Thanks !
If that type of layout allows you to organize your data the way you want, then go for it.