Good design reflects in as much in the planning and organizasional components of a site as as in the graphic and information design and content.

We should at the very least consider the following issues when we prepare to build a site:

The look and feel of the site

* Consistency of typography, graphic and colour
* The navigation from point of entry onwards
* Is there a clear exit?

The details of content
is there an exchange of information?
will there be a server-side process (e.commerce etc)

Your choice of ISP.
are there likely to be any security issues?

The intended audience
* -it's profile
* -likely behaviour while browsing
* -it's needs.
* The likely hardware / software of our target audience.

The clients needs and expectations
* How can the success of the site be evaluated?
* Sales, hits, comments, requests etc
* How expandable is the site
* Has future expansion or rebuilding been planned for in the site?
* How will the site be promoted?
* Is the look of the promotion complimentary to the site
* How often is the site updated?
* Who is responsible for maintenance of the site
* Where will the updated content be comming from (who is responsible)

There are many useful resources on webdesign available on the web. You can try the following sites:
Great site with links to many sites chosen as examples of good or indifferent design. Allows you to vote for your favourite site. Good for design ideas.
Very good site, with many examples of good (and not so good) visual design
Online course in web design. Has some useful hints and tips about visual design
Dmitry Kirsanov’s design lab. Good hints and tips on graphics and visual design
Also from Dmitry Kirsanov. Takes the development of a site from a blank sheet of paper to a finished site, with discussions of why he made all the design decisions he made
Jakob Nielsen decrees that content design and information architecture should replace visual design
A graphic design style manual used by Yale University. Contains a good discussion of web page design principles
Jakob Nielsen’s description of how they redesigned the Sun Microsystems website (dated 1998)
Although this article is about information architecture, it has a section on visual design

An interview with Lynda Weinman, a well-respected graphic designer and textbook author
Interesting discussion of various kinds of graphical menu bars for navigation
Comparison of graphics print versus web page design
Listing of the 30 most popular websites where you can vote for your favourite site. Good for examples of visual design
The Non-Designer's Web Book (2nd Edition), Robin Williams, John Tollett, Peachpit Press; ISBN: 0201710382; 2nd edition (September 8, 2000)

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug, Roger Black, Que; ISBN: 0789723107; 1st edition (October 13, 2000)

Designing Web Graphics.3 (3rd Edition), Lynda Weinman, New Riders Publishing; ISBN: 1562059491; 3rd edition (April 1999)

Effective Web Design, Ann Navarro, Sybex; ISBN: 0782128491; Book & Cd edition (April 2001)

Robin Williams Web Design Workshop, Robin Williams, John Tollett, Dave Rohr, David Rohr, Peachpit Press; ISBN: 0201748673; 1st edition (July 25, 2001)

Www.Layout: Effective Design and Layout for the World Wide Web, Jerry Glenwright, Watson-Guptill Pubns; ISBN: 0823058581; (May 2001)

Creating Killer Web Sites (2nd Edition), David Siegel, Hayden Books; ISBN: 1568304331; 2nd edition (September 18, 1997)