Know Your Audience
We don't want to sell ice to Eskimos. Not every website should be designed the same way. A financial site is completely different from a site for a fine artist. Don't let yourself be template-ed into the same look that everyone else has.
Original Content is King
Give your audience a reason to visit and utilize your website. Provide them with something to see, and make it yours alone. A website is at the very least an online brochure, and at most, it is the best direct advertising available to drive customers to your business, not just traffic.
Keep your content current with frequent and relevant updates. Life is ever changing, your website should be too. The more you update your site, the more relevant it becomes, the higher you rank in search engines.
Functional Navigation Should Not Take Second Stage To Artistic Whim
Opinions on the implementation of graphic art on the web vary greatly. Regardless of a designer's desire for a more traditional text approach, or a visual-only product, the content and accessibility of the website should remain intact and easily navigable by the user.
Test the Site for Usability
Your website's content needs to be easily accessible and site navigation should be clear and visible. Before a site is launched, we have people who are not typically computer savvy use the website. We watch for their ability to easily move through the site and find important content. This "usability testing" is vitally important and is completed by people who were not part of the design process. They provide objective feedback that can be used to rework the site for more user-friendly and effective results.
The user of a well designed website should be able to surf the site without searching for the navigation buttons. Flash only sites have a tendency to attract computer-literate users who are not representative of the normal web surfer. A site should speak to the viewer in a clear and easily understood format, without insulting their intelligence. Once an easily followed navigation system has been created, it then needs to be integrated in a similar fashion throughout the website.
Web Site "Optimization" is Built In... NOT an Add-on
Hundreds of companies have recently come onto the web scene offering site "optimization" for a fee. Other euphemisms include "Search Engine Ranking" and "Placement Boosting." The art and science of making a website that is accessible and properly categorized by the various search engines of the Internet is something that should be done by your website designer from the beginning. Period.