This is more for a project I’m working on, but I would talk about how I design a website. Most of the time, I start with a piece of paper, a ruler and a pencil. I try to sketch what’s in my head, or what has been suggested. I usually rough-in pixel sizes and jot down css class names. I then take that to Dreamweaver, where I can throw together a rough CSS layout of the sketch in less than an hour. I usually spend half of that time troubleshooting, or applying the Tantek hack to the classes. After that, I usually fireup Photoshop to mock-up some fake banners for the site. Giving an idea of how graphically, the site should look.
I keep a little red notebook on my desk, of quick sketches of site ldeas. I can throw something down on it’s graph-lined paper. Quickly, giving me a starting place or a placeholder for a new idea. Right beside that notebook is Meyer’s “Cascading Style Sheets”, usually lying open in the appendix section…giving me a quick reference if I’m stummed on some little bit of css. This happens a lot, so that’s why it’s there.
After I get a mock-uped template ready, I usually test it on a development server where I can then test it on various browsers and operating systems. I usually refer back to the original sketch to see if it’s still looking like the original plan. Then I take the basic template of the sketch and try to fit it into the CMS. It rare that I build static pages for a client. I have two clients who don’t use a CMS, but will probably move in the coming months.