So I’ve been playing around with grid based layouts a LOT lately. After seeing the blueprint css framework, I decided this was the perfect time to try designing with grids. For those of you who know me, I have been completely self taught as far as web design and interface design is concerned. Everything I know I learned from reading books or trial and error, so I don’t have the formal background most designers have regarding typography, style guides, etc. Anyway, back to the grids I saw on blueprint here, I decided to make my own grid template for laying out pages and wireframing them.
sample layout grid.
So to begin I went and created a pattern out of the background image in the grids sample above in photoshop. One thing to note with grids, they are supposed to be based on a font size as the defining unit for the sizes. Again, I’m not a graduate of any graphic design school, so my methodology might be weird. Here is how I start a design using grids (the wireframe at least).

Step 1: Create the canvas
First I usually create a document in photoshop 960px wide and 900px high (i’ve got a big screen, and usually end up making the page longer) and either a white or a transparent background. Here is a small example. Generally the grid layer I put over everything else, and make it translucent so i can see where everything is relative to the grid.
colored grid layout
Another technique I tend to do is color code the site, so I have an idea of the content, the auxiliary material, the navigation, branding, etc. If you group the colors, it should help you get a better feel for what type of stuff you are really including in your design. Is your design looking 60% ads? Then chances are you need to rethink your site.

So with these steps in mind, you can theoretically start figuring out your layout/structure. The use of grids, especially frameworked grid layouts like Blueprint or YUI Grids will help you in regards to formatting your text, maintaining legibility, and giving your site a solid flow.

Next step will be an actual design, and then transitioning that design into a real xhtml site.