The first step in developing a new site is to develop the visual site design consisting of the site's overall layout and use of graphics. This visual architecture defines the "look and feel" from the user's perspective. You start by establishing the user experience you want people to have, and then you design the plumbing behind the scenes that will provide that user experience. Some basic considerations that affect the user's experience are the menu and navigation, use of images, and the organization of elements on the page. The menu must be intuitive and should be augmented by navigation hints such as a site map or breadcrumbs that can remind users where they are, relative to the site as a whole. Breadcrumbs in this context refer to a set of small links on the page that form a trail that enables users to back up to a previous page by clicking on the link segment for a page higher in the page hierarchy.
You should consider the specific features included in ASP.NET 2.0 before writing any code, so you can take advantage of the work that's already been done by Microsoft. By laying a good foundation for the technical architecture, you can improve code reusability and enhance maintainability. This chapter looks at the overall visual layout of the site and explains how you can take advantage of powerful features such as master pages and themes. Master pages are used to group functionality into templates that provide the common elements shared by many pages, and themes enable users to customize certain aspects of the site to give them a unique look and feel that appeals to them (also called skinning).