I'm a web designer. I build websites on WordPress for small and startup companies. I take care of everything; graphics, content, hosting and domains. Understanding how websites and the internet work are part and parcel of my job.

The purpose of web design is to present the information on it to the best effect. Before I even start the project, I have a thorough discussion with the client to decide what the purpose of the website is.

What do they want it to do? Is it an information display? An online shop? A discussion forum? A writers' showcase?

On the internet
CMS website

Basically, decide whether you need a database or not. Having a database makes it easier to find items on your website. Otherwise, make sure all your links work or you're going to find some pages difficult to find or display.
iPage

Sometimes my clients already have hosting and domains. The ones who don't get me to sort that out for them. I usually put them with iPage, depending on their hosting needs.
More  and more people access the internet via mobile devices every day. Websites built on HTML tables won't display as intended on mobile devices.

Table-based web page layout
Please don't tell me you were going to leave out mobile. Most people use them.

Mobile in person's hand
If you're taking the Responsive route, layout is important because the website has got to look good on bigger screens.

Mobile-friendly websites

The traditional sidebar left/right/both sides option has been extended to stacked columns, which provide neat boxes for your content to sit in. They stack nicely on mobile screens so you only have to scroll downwards when browsing.

Better browsing = more business.
Think "Function first, then form." That way you'll get the best results in every area.
 
Wordpress logo
So... have you decided which platform to use yet? HTML pages are all well and good but updating your site requires generating code. Using a CMS such as WordPress will save you the bother. Just click "post" and off you go. WordPress has a range of themes, many of which are free AND mobile-ready. They are flexible enough to let you add your own header banner and change the background and layout.

Blogger is perfectly good as a CMS . It's free and has the advantage of linking directly to Google services.

Dynamic Heights

It all depends on what you want to do and how much control you want. A skilled designer can even make it look like a WordPress webite - slideshow, call to action button, and all!
Your website should have a clear focus in terms of what it's about and what you can do for the people who visit it. Can you meet their needs in the area you're working in?
Map

Do they need to be able to physically find you? Add a map gadget to help provide directions to your premises if necessary.

Don't get too excited about search results and SEO. While it's important to be found online and yes, there are ways to float quickly to the top of the search results...

Google Search results

... you are up against other people doing the exact same thing. The trick is not to be on page one of Google but to engage effectively with your audience. If you treat them well they'll tell their friends.
Adding widgets, slideshows, and large images can slow down your website. Are they necessary?
Perspective Therapy
Images, etc., should be relevant to the text or they're unncecessary. Avoid clutter. If your needs are simple, keep it simple. Content is king, people! That is what will drive people back again and again.
I recommend putting your contact details where people can see them easily without having to dig for it. Make sure that the most important information is the easiest to find.
Me wagging my finger
Web design is not about producing a pretty website but providing information and other services for potential clients in the most effective way.