Design can mean many things to many people. Some consider design to be driven by aesthetics or style and whilst this is a component of web design, it is not the primary focus.
Websites are not just looked at they are used. This interaction between a website and a visitor means that a successful design must create a pleasurable user experience. A good design achieves this by fusing functionality and style with a permanent focus on purpose.
The purpose must be driven by the audience's experience and the client's message and not solely by aesthetics. This is not to say a good design cannot be stylish but rather a design cannot be successful based on decoration alone. Style is a necessary part of web design used to communicate brand and enhance the user experience but it is not the starting point for a good design.
“ Style is a necessary part of web design used to communicate brand and enhance the user experience but it is not the starting point for a good design. ”
A common mistake of inexperienced designers is to consider style before purpose. They ask what a site should look like before they ask who will use it and what they will use it for. This can result in a visually appealing but flawed website whose design inhibits the user experience.
Every aspect of the design should be scrutinised. If the only reason a designer has for a particular element is that "it looks cool" then perhaps that element should be rethought. This is of course an idealistic scenario that ignores the wants of certain clients and their insistence on style. It is our job as web designers to explain that a site can look great but it is only successful when it works brilliantly for the end user too.