Welcome aboard, andyguest. BTW, there is a game guide in .pdf format that’s accessible from inside the game itself.
This forum is a very rich resource to mine for wisdom. I’ll give you a few “bullet points” as a place to start from. I leave it to you to research these points in far greater detail…
Designing very slow cruisers (wherein room for engines is mostly allocated instead to guns, shields, etc.) is a potential minefield, as exceptionally low (or even zero!) speed leaves you vulnerable to massive, high-damage weapons with very low tracking speed. This includes plasma.
A missile launcher can only have one shot in flight at a time. The existing shot must either strike its target, be shot down or run out of fuel before that weapon can launch the next missile.
The “tracking speed” and “shield penetration” statistics are of vital importance when choosing weapons to let a ship fulfill particular roles in your fleet. Experiment with this. Balancing those against each gun’s fire interval and optimum ranges is an intricate ballet that will go a long way towards determining if you barely survive or if you are truly victorious.
An overall armor rating on your hulls of at least 12.00 is needed to avoid fighters doing VERY bad things very quickly to your ships.
Cruiser camouflage devices are not anywhere near as useful as you might think.
“Shield resistance”…explore this.
A sufficiently fast fighter is nearly invulnerable to ship-based weaponry due to the challenge in locking-on with slower guns. Debate continues over the point of precisely what speed this threshhold lies upon. In general terms, beware of enemy fighters moving at speed 2.50 or greater.
For frigate-sized ships, the EMP missile and the ion cannon make a good offensive weaponry combination. For frigates tasked to defend cruisers against fighters, consider tractor beams to slow them down and either the pulse laser or the anti-fighter missile launcher to lay down the smack.
When deploying your fleet at the start of a mission, make full use of your ability to issue target priority % values and ideal engagement ranges to your ships and fighters. Managing the ranges can be trickier than you realize.