I think using blank/quadrille pages is a great idea, but it does require some extra effort. After all, in a printed album with spaces, it's easy-as-pie to just attach each stamp in the space where it belongs without a problem. With blank pages, you have to decide your layout for each page ahead of time, and you may need to draw boxes, and you will certainly have to label each stamp or stamp set as to what it's about, when it was issued, and so on. I'd guess it would take twice the time to work with blank albums, maybe more than that, compared to pre-printed albums.
But, of course, that's part of the pleasure of blank albums -- you get to spend your time creating an appealing presentation of stamps that reflects your own decisions about the best layout, and so on. And you end up with a creative product that is very much more personalized than a manufactured album that anyone could buy and fill with stamps. I like looking at someone's blank album far more than a preprinted album filled with stamps. The latter looks standard just as you'd expect. The blank album is a personalized creation that is often much more appealing.
Blank albums seem to be much more widely used in Europe, it seems to me anyway, than in the U.S. where we seem to prefer printed albums. Maybe Europeans appreciate an aesthetic product like an album that you created yourself more than we do? Hard to say.
It's also much less expensive to create your own blank albums, well under half the price of printed albums. A Scott album for a major stamp issuing country would likely cost $3-400 for a few hundred pages and maybe three binders to hold them, perhaps more. The same country in a Lighthouse, Davo, or Schaubek album will require up to five or six volumes of pages and cost up to $1000, again perhaps more. Five volumes of blank pages in binders of your own choosing might cost half of the cost of a Scott album -- likely less if you use less expensive (meaning less fancy) pages and binders. Using elegant Schaubek blank pages put into Schaubek 6-ring binders would run you about $70 a volume. Times five volumes and you have a $350 album which has enough space for an entire collection of a major country. You just have to create it album yourself.
I've seen blank albums created by collectors which had stamps mounted on each page with no attempt to draw boxes or even to label the stamps or sets of stamps. Just stamps mounted on pages. That's a bit bleak for my taste. At the other end of the spectrum, more creative collectors highlight sets of stamps with marginal lines and label them in great detail, creating what are almost works of art. And of course there's in-between which is where most album makers choose.
If I had to choose a pre-printed album on a budget, instead of a blank album, I'd choose Scott albums. They're very well designed and well made. If I had unlimited funds, I might choose Lighthouse albums or one of the other European manufacturers. Some collectors try to mount their collections in an albumsmade in the country they're collecting, maybe Marini for Italy, SG for Britain, Lighhouse or Schaubek for Germany, Yvert & Tellier for France, and so on. I'd find that difficult to do and expensive. And supplementing those albums might prove difficult.
And, of course, there's the option of using pages already laid out for you which you print yourself on your home printer. Those are the Steiner pages used a lot today. They'll be the size of computer paper, of course, which you may find a bit small compared to other albums. But the layouts are well done -- and you cannot beat the amazingly low price. Those pages plus some three ring (or other) binders, and you've got an album that looks pretty good.
As for the other question about how to know what a manufacturer's album page layouts actually look like, you can buy and return if you don't like the album. But that's time-consuming. You used to be able to compare albums in stamp stores. Not much chance of that today. I've seen album manufacturers displaying samples of their albums at some of the major national stamp shows. I've purchased some used albums on eBay
at times. It's also possible sometimes to get a publisher to send you a sample page to look at. I've even bought a few used pages online just to be sure I like the way that album is designed. It's all a bit laborious for me just to decide what a properly illustrated website or paper catalogue could tell me a lot easier.