When building a website, it's critical that you spend adequate time fine tuning the design and functionality of each page for your visitors. The design you choose is largely up to you, but there are a few key rules to which you should always adhere.

Avoid splash pages
You may have seen these. A splash page is an attractive first page with text that says something like "Welcome" or "Click to Enter." These pages usually look great, but that's their only real purpose.

These pages, though they look nice, don't offer any value to your visitors. When a visitor sees a splash page they are more likely to hit the infamous "back" button than they are to click to enter the site. Show a visitor your site's value immediately. Don't hide it behind a splash page!

Use banner ads in moderation
Banner advertisements, when used properly, are great. Unfortunately they take up quite a bit of space - space that can be used for other things. If you use banners and banner advertisements use them sparingly.

In addition, let's also consider that no one likes a webpage loaded down with advertisements. Having one or two ads is fine. Any more than that is excessive. Place ads wisely and keep them limited in number. As your site becomes more popular, you may wish to sell ad space - replacing AdSense (or other CPC) ads with purchased ads.

Use simple, clean navigation
Your visitors come to your website for content. Don't ask them to use a complicated navigation system. Make sure it's easy to find content quickly - without jumping through lots of menus.

If your site supports it, you may also wish to integrate a search box to allow your users to quickly find a page by entering in a search term.

Don't rely on Flash for navigation. Flash takes up extra bandwidth and while Flash is a commonly used platform, not all browsers support it. Some will even purposefully disable Flash.

However, any web browser will natively understand text and image links.

Avoid background music
Few things are more annoying on a website than auto-playing background music that the user can't turn off. As a general rule, avoid using background music. It's annoying. It wastes bandwidth. Stay away from it.

Even if the audio is something the user would really enjoy, do you expect the user to enjoy hearing it loop ten or fifteen times if he stays a while reading your content?

Avoid auto-playing videos
If your website includes video, don't allow it to play automatically. Auto-playing videos are almost as annoying as background music. Let the user decide if and when to play the video.

If you avoid splash pages, use banner ads sparingly, provide simple navigation, and use media responsibly, you will be providing a much better experience for your visitors.

As with most things creative, there is no exact formula for building a winning website. Try out new things. Learn what works and what doesn't work and run with it.