How to hit a HOME RUN
The HOME RUN is use as a mnemonic here and is the foundation of a good website.
Be sure to create high-quality content. If you achieve that, 90% of the job is done.
Keep the information on your website up to date! Seems like an obvious thing, but it's really important to have a good updating process.
Minimal download time
Even if the download time is now less an issue than in the early 2000's, keep in mind that people might be in the metro or at the cottage when visiting your website. This means no high-resolution cats gifs. Sorry.
Also: optimize your images! For photos, use JPG. For images with transparency, use PNG.
Ease of use
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Sometimes you only need a small change to make a huge difference in your user behaviour (Nielsen, 1995).
“Site design must be aimed at simplicity above all else, with as few distractions as possible and with a very clear information architecture and matching navigation tools” (Nielsen, 2000, p. 133).
“Websites should make the main things users want to do very simple. Other actions and advanced features can certainly be possible, but simple things should be simple to do” (Nielsen, 2000, p. 301).
Relevant to users' needs
“Web pages should be dominated by the content of interest to the user” (Nielsen, 2000, p. 7).
Sad but true, not all information is relevant to the users. This is why it's important to find a balance between what you want people to do and what people actually want to do on your website.
Make choices and have the guts to drop what's less important.
“We cannot design good Web pages like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with everything from roast beef to cream puffs. […] If [users] stay, like the buffet patron, they'll feel sick and fat and disillusioned by the end” (Nielsen & Pernice, 2009, p. 66)
Unique to the online medium
Humans have this weird tendency to recycle information through multiple media. This could work in theory, but in practice, most of the time, it's difficult to adapt for the web. Try to create unique and optimized for digital publishing content.
Net-centric corporate culture
Try to always keep the web in mind when working on a project with your team. You will get things done more easily and in a better quality.
Using Paper Prototypes in Home-Page Design by Jakob Nielsen
Designing Web usability by Jakob Nielsen
Eyetracking web usability by Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice