I make no pretence to having the final word on what constitutes good web design, but I do stand by two simple principals:
- Know your audience
- Keep it simple
I like to draw out on a piece of paper where I want the header, the nav, article and footer sections to go. Often, I go online and look for new ideas.
On a site I am making for clients I like to brainstorm with them what they have in mind. What do they want the site to say? What are their expectations? What other sites do they like and why? What makes their business unique? Who is their customer? They know their business and their clients.
Take our Italian restaurant site. The clientele of one Italian restaurant can be different from another. The look of the website should reflect those often subtle distinctions. Time spent with clients discussing any and all such nuances is time well spent.
Come up with a "Call to Action". Let's say your client owns an Italian restaurant. A prominant button that links to a reservation page could read: "Make a Reservation!".
Come up with something that will make the site stand out. A polished slide show displaying one delicious meal after another may well be what it takes to get a potential patron to order that plate of spaghetti. However, follow that up with banners of blinking Italian flags and you'll do nothing more than irritate them.
Again, keep is simple. A little zing can make a site really shine. A lot of zing is at best dead weight.
By now you know your message, site structure and what you want visitors to do. It's time to put it all together.