I'd also like to say - your questions aren't stupid at all. In fact you'll probably learn what you want to know by asking questions. And people here are really very nice about trying to answer them.
As for the covers, I don't decorate either. I have a lot of albums on a bookcase (because placing them flat can smash the insides). I would think a lot of decorated covers could make it difficult to slide them on and off the shelves without damaging them.
As for the journaling, the possibilities of ways to include it are pretty much endless. I've typed mine and cut out the rectangle and matted it quite a bit. I've drawn (or stamped) lines right onto my page and written on those. I've seen people write their journaling around the edges of the photos. You can hide your journaling in the folded card way behind a photo or in pull out tab fashion. You could put it on tags too. As I've indicated the list of ways to incorporate it can go on and on. Hope those give you a few ideas. I'm sure that a good through the gallery will give you even more.