First things first… Visual design. I don’t know about you, but if I go to a web site that is not visually pleasing, it is a quick turn off.
That’s not to say that every top website needs an incredible visual design — but if a site looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1994, it’s just not going to be associated with other great websites.
A clean and simple design is usually all you need. Bells and whistles are nice, but I’m one who tends to go with the “less is more” theory. You don’t want your design to be over crowded. You just want it to look good so it can stand out from your competitor(s) in the minds of your potential clients.
First impressions are key. Although good design alone will not keep someone on your site — an eye-catching design will, at the very least, grab their attention long enough to take a look around.