Thanks. Based on your comment I have worked a little more with MALA and think I can improve the standard layout enough for my taste. The layout editor seems fairly intuitive. I am running an older build of MAME (0.148) to be compatible with MALA, but I am only installing classic games (not the entire rom set) so I don't need the latest version.
When I try to go to the original MALA website Norton puts up a red screen and alerts me to problems with the page so I haven't had the courage to ignore them and open it, but I have found sufficient advice on this and other home arcade websites to get me through.
Interestingly, I found a survey of front ends and MALA was still the most used (granted, it has been around much longer than some newer FEs).