DVDdoug, your experiences are very personal. It is my opinion that not everyone needs to take your advice and give up making their own PCB before they even try.
With a little patience and experience you can make perfectly good boards at home.
1) Making a PCB at home is not fun, for you. Others may like it as I do.
2) PCBexpress is a sort of good with the bad experience due to proprietary tools. There are probably much better examples of of good places to get PCB's made... like maybe ITEAD.
3) I don't run around telling people "Don't eat cabbage because it sucks and smells funny." I allow people to figure things like that out on their own.
4) They said they were going to buy some ferric chloride... so farming it out does not seem to be in the plans.
Here is how I make mine:
As others have said... you can't really do double sided PCB's at home without at least getting better experience at single sided... so you want to design your board so that IF you need TOP SIDE traces, they are all the shortest possible straight lines you can run as "jumper wires".
Designing PCB's is sort of like solving a complex puzzle. It can be a rewarding experience if you let it become one. Using surface mount parts is usually done to save space... but since you are using many through hole parts already... It might be easier to just use ALL through hole parts... that way, everything is on the same side... but that is a personal choice... up to you.
One design idea... Avoid using all sorts of angles... pick only a few, like maybe 45 and 90 for all traces.
CARL: I'm assuming you are trying to use a laser printer toner transfer method... I've done it for a long time you... if you have questions... feel free to ask.