I don’t make templates (because I’m not incredibly good) but I do make a lot of well received sites. If the client has no sort of graphic identity (e.g. existing logo) then I’ll generally start, believe it or not, with the navmenu. That’s because I have a couple of neat little menu generators and it’s very easy to experiment with styles for this component of the page, which is usually the one thing on the site, together with the logo, that is the same for all pages. I also hold in my mind a basic target colour scheme that is broadly, based on the colours that are naturally found in the client’s business. Often the natural structure of the information that needs to be presented will then guide the layout of different page groups with in the site. I’ll take a long time to make the logo, generally playing around in a basic but speedy vector drawing program that I know my way around (Serif Draw). Building with CSS , I’ll occasionally change colours sitewide to some slightly better scheme. I generally try a few layouts for each page group, working directly with the code to that.
A short answer is no, I never use a PSD
PSD has always been a step for me but I just started trying to jump straight into WordPress and go from there. With the popularity of simple, CSS -based design, and the power of HTML5 & CSS3 , leaving little need for images from Photoshop, it’s a pretty good time to start designing in-browser. I always sketch a bit on paper… gotta give my sketchpad some lovin’.