1. Navigation: Your websites navigation should be concise, quick, clean and easy for your users to understand. Make your navigation structure uniform throughout your site and always let your users know which part of your site they are in and how to move on to other parts of your site. The key element to any navigation structure is simplicity - keep it simple.
2. Layout: In the design of websites, layout is often overlooked. Layout is very important and is another means of navigation. Layout should also be kept the same throughout your site. Don't make different sections of your site look like totally different sites altogether. This will only confuse your visitors and make your navigation pretty useless. Never cram your page with to much information, always make good use of space in and around the page. Try and keep scrolling to a minimum, no one likes to scroll along way to get to certain information. If you have lots of information, break it up and place it on a separate page, but make sure that the user can alternate between pages with the traditional use of next and back links.
3. Color: There is no rules as to which colors you can use for your website and nor should there be. However make the color of your site reflect the theme of your site. If you have a fun/humour type of site use fun colors such as Yellow, Green, Orange, Purple etc. If your site is of a corporate nature use light and airy colors such as Blue, Grey, White etc. Again there is no rule to color usage, but always remember to use colors that reflect your site. If possible try to use in between 3-5 colors on one page, dont go color overkill, this can distract the user from the important aspects of your site such as content and navigation. Also contrasting colors like dark Blue and bright Yellow can often make a site look tacky so be careful when selecting colors, make sure that the colors compliment each other.
4. Load time: Load time is very very important. The longer it takes for your site to load the quicker the visitor will leave so therefore try to keep load times as low as possible. Try and design your site with a user of a 56k modem in mind because though broadband is on the increase, the majority of people surfing the web still use a 56K modem. The recommended file size for a web page is 40-60K, try and keep it below this. To reduce your sites load time keep your graphics as small as possible without effecting the quality to much and remember to save all photos as .jpg and all normal graphics like buttons as .gif
5. Browser/screen resolution compatibility: Try to make your site friendly to all browsers and all screen resolutions. Remember that some people use different browsers/different screen resolutions and different platforms to other people so never assume that they will never visit your site, always assume that they will because one size does not fit all.
6. Site design. Anyone can build a website but not every one can design a website. The most important aspect of this article is that I can not learn you how to build great websites however by heeding these basic web design requirements I can point you in the right direction when it comes to good design practices. Web design is not just about creating great looking graphics infact its far from it. No, web design is about many aspects. By sticking with the above design requirements you can start to learn how to utilise these and turn your designs into good quality websites your self. I learned the importance of good web design by using the above as the basic requirement's that need implemented for a website to be of good quality and good design so you can too.
Remember dont just consider these six principles when designing your site, I find the best way to further my own design skills is by visiting as many different web sites as possible, bad sites and good sites, look at all different styles (try coolhomepages for inspiration). Make as many different mistakes as you can and learn from them. Experiment because the best way to learn is by experimenting. Read as many different tutorials/articles/Internet magazines/tips as you can. Finally use webmaster forums and dont be shy to ask about certain things or certain issue's that you aren't to clear with because forums are often the best place to gather knowledge.
All the best Chris @ Stickysauce