What Herbstluftwm does
Herbstluftwm is a manual tiling window manager. Which means, by default it ships with one pane where windows will be placed.
However, this is not the way that herbstluftwm is meant to be used. Manual tiling is about splitting your windows into sub-panes, like a binary tree.
You're probably saying to yourself "Well, that sounds top! How can I get started?"
The answer is a bit more complex than I would like to admit.
Setting up Herbstluftwm
Herbstluftwm works in a peculiar way, but a way that I personally find to be one of the best design patterns on Unix. Herbstluftwm is configured completely by a client, called herbstclient, that can be called from the command line. To facilitate consistency across sessions, herbstluftwm allows a regular BASH script to be written to bind keys, run autostart programs, etc. This is usually placed in ~/.config/herbstluftwm/autostart. To launch herbstluftwm, just make sure that your ~/.xinitrc contains "herbstluftwm -c ~/.config/herbstluftwm".-c is the flag to set the configuration file.
My autostart script looks like this: https://gist.github.com/anonymous/9893756
Now, barring the wallpaper I use, and a couple of programs that are not installed on many systems by default, it works very well. Windows+v for a horizontal split, Windows+h for a vertical one, etc. Whether or not you can even use this exact configuration, it's a good launching point for your very own herbstluftwm experience.