I try to design from the view point of the visitor, asking what they have come to your site for, and how to give it to them in a visually stimulating but direct way.
A lot of web designers seem to think that it doesn't matter what the site is about, just that it *shows off* the latest techie fad in web design. It's good to know how to do all that stuff, but that doesn't mean it serves the purpose of the site to do it.
For most business or organizational web sites, the best approach is to keep things simple and direct. People are not coming to your site to see all the flash, they are coming for information, and that should be the focus of the design, getting your viewers quickly and easily to the information they want.
In terms of graphic design, the web is little different from any other design medium. All the same basic rules apply and I believe that fundamentally, it is graphic design with the computer screen in mind that makes an effective web site.
Since the purpose of this web site is to show off my graphic design and "web" skills, I have broken many of my own rules about the design of small business web sites. I presume that since you are here to see what I can do, you don't mind too much waiting for the animated graphics to load.