Good web design is founded on having solid principals with a heuristic approach to solving the problems that are discovered with each websites needs and goals.
First and foremost the website must possess features that make it easy for the users to find what they are looking for and to give them the ques based on any goals the website owner wants them to accomplish. While the visual design does not play directly into this, with the effective use of graphical elements and design many of the common mishaps can be overcome. It is important to know various characteristics about the websites visitors in order to create the necessary attributes that make a website effective and useful.
Know The User
One of the most overlooked principles is knowing and understanding the users (visitors) that will be coming to the website. Too often the site owner takes too much control of the project making demands of the developer that suite their own ideas rather than those of their customers/clients. It is critical that research is done on a variety of factors about the sites visitors in order to make the site inviting and easy for them to navigate. Ignoring this critical step will lead to a website that is only good for the site owner, alienating the very people that they are trying to attract.
Don't Make Users Think
There are a number of standards in web design that need to be followed to the letter and some that can be bent, even broken. However it is important to create functionality and give visual ques that will lead a site visitor down a path where the satisfy the site owners goals. If elements such as navigation and site architecture aren't intuitive the number of question marks grow and make it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. With a clear structure and moderate visual clues the user will easily be able to recognize elements such as links and buttons that will help them find their path and the goals put in place.
Understand The Users' Patience
To say users' today are impatient is an understatement and unless you want to read your analytic and see large bounce rates, heed the warning about making things overly complex, complicated or make too many demands. One example of this is found when you go to a website and before you can even read a simple title a popup appears asking the user to subscribe, or asking if there is something it can help them with. Another mistake is to force a user to subscribe before they are allowed to view something or play with a service. Using long forms they must complete for a site they may never use again.
Focus The Users' Attention
Using focus we can help the user zone in on what is important or to guide them to a special offer that has been setup. If done properly we can focus the users' attention to a specific are of the page using visual elements to help them get from point A to point B without much thought of how it is supposed to be done. The less question marks a visitor has the better orientated they will be and the more trust they will have of the company behind the website and it is the user experience that is the aim of usability.
Strive For Better Feature Exposure
Combining visual appeal with clear structure to assist the user in seeing what functions are available and is a fundamental principle of successful user interface design. The key is to make sure the content is easy to understand and visitors feel comfortable with the way they interact with the system.
Make Use of Effective Writing
Promotional writing will not be read, large blocks of text without images and keywords that are bold or italic will be skipped and exaggerated language will be ignored. Keep it short, sweet and business like unless it has been determined otherwise that your site visitors will not respond well. Use short and concise phrases and get to the point quickly. Categorize content and use visual elements and bulleted lists to break the flow of uniformed text. A promotion does not need to sound like a promotion to be effective, just give your users a reasonable and objective reason why they should use your service or product in order to keep them on the website.
Keep it Simple
This should be at the forefront of every decision made when building the website. In all but a few cases a user is rarely on a site to enjoy the design and furthermore in most cases they are looking for some information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity. Keeping with these principles in the design makes adding elements as triggers for goals is easier to do and easier for the visitor to see.
Don't Fear White space
It is hard to overestimate the importance of white space. It helps to reduce cognitive overload for the visitors and makes it possible to perceive the information on the page. The first thing your sites visitors will do when the page loads is scan the page in an attempt to divide the content into digestible pieces of information. Complex structures are harder to read, analyze and work through. If given the choice when separate two design segments with a visible line or white space, it is almost always better to use white space. Simon's Law states that the better you manage to provide users with a sense of visual hierarchy, the easier your content will be to perceive.