There are those that say that the world became a lot less understandable with the arrival of "desktop publishing" and multiple fonts. Everyone began to add bells and whistles to the simplest documents.
To some extent this is just as true for web site development! Before you get fancy and clever with the design or special effects, make sure you've addressed a few web design basics.
It starts with good content. Make sure your site offers useful and informative content. Visitors to your site are not looking for an art gallery, they're looking for information. Make sure you give it to them.
Make it readable. The content will not do much good if it's displayed in yellow on a white background, is in the smallest possible type, or uses an unreadable font. This also includes compatibility issues that make content unreadable – make sure your site works on Microsoft's Internet Explore, Mozilla, and Apple's Safari.
Add good navigation. If you've provided the content, make sure your visitors can find it. That includes search engines trying to catalog your site appropriately. Keep your menus and submenu obvious and direct. Make sure links and cross-links are visible and intuitive. Adding a site-map is always a good addendum to helping both users and search engines find what they're looking for.
Keep it clean. It's essential that your site has no bugs, no dead-end links, no spelling errors, and no out-of-date data. In all events, inspect and monitor your site content carefully.
Keep it simple. Web design basics are just that … basic. Do not use effects unless they add-value to your objectives. Using elaborate effects, even using tools like Flash, often make your site harder to use and harder to get the information your visitors are looking for. Likewise, do not implement an elaborate page structure when a simple one will do.
These essential web design basics boil down to common sense. Paying attention to these four essentials is a good benchmark for managing your own site.