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templates vs includes

back in the days when i used asp, i used to have one page that acted as a template and just used include files for the main content. i would end up with urls like [site].com/main?page=something. now that im steeped in salesforce develoment, i still havent found a way to really buils sites efficiently. theres a controller component for navigation; whos logged in, what pages would they have access to. the main section would have a controller; getting data, checking permissions, etc. shared user and data assets, shared stylesheet assets. and components and include seems to be a little lacking in really being flexible and useful. or am i missing something? whats a good model for building out custom sites using the provided framework, allowing for building out navigation with user info, and building out multiple pages that use that navigation and stylesheets.