Designing a Web site is a complicated process; there are many things you should consider before beginning. The layout of your Web site is just as important as the look and feel. Of course, your website should look nice and professional, but its layout still has to be simple and easy to use for the common user. Any good web designer will be able to find an appropriate balance and maximize the appeal of your website. Your navigation bars should be in the same place on every page. For example, it would be confusing if on the homepage your links are at the top, and on other pages they are off to the side. Also links should be able to be clearly identified, your links should not have the same font and color of the regular text, and if they are they should be in bold or underlined.
When designing your website, it would be beneficial to be conservative when it comes to the use of images. The amount of pictures used will affect the load time of your pages. If your page takes too long to load, you will lose many of your visitors to Web sites that loads quicker. Some people use browsers with images turned off, as is the case with many mobile phones, so images should not be the cornerstone of your design. However when using images, you should utilize ALT tags. These ALT tags can also help with your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, which can be extremely beneficial to your website.
Along with ALT tags, there are description, title, and h1 tags. All of these tags help with your SEO, and as any web designer would know this is very important. With good optimization, these can greatly increased traffic and general awareness of your website. All your tags should carry along the same general theme without being repetitive, because that will actually negatively affect your search engine ranking.
Another thing that some designers overlook is the use of rare fonts that only a select few people have. If you were to use some customized font and the person visiting your website does not have that font installed on the computer it will be converted into a more traditional font (such as Times New Roman). This would give your pages a completely different feel than what was intended by the original design. So when planning your design, make sure it uses a generally common font.
A lot of Web sites these days at features that require the use of a plug-in, like Java or Flash Player. These features do add a certain prestige to your website but do inhibit its functionality. If your website has very loyal viewers, and you do not believe that the need for a plug-in will stop them from enjoying their content, then using these features would be beneficial. However, in most cases it will be better to work around using these plug-ins. Along with that, it should be noted that not every user has the same browser, be sure your pages do not use any browser specific functions.
With these suggestions, you should be able to generate a professional looking and still very functional website. However, the navigation should be the main focus is without neglecting the artistic part of the design. After all, what good is a beautiful website if users do not know how to use it?