Here's a big step that people really over complicate. They are trying to do a Spielberg production because they feel that the glossier the better. Well you couldn't be more wrong if you tried. This is where KISS (Keep it simple Stupid) comes into play.
Graphic design and Look & Feel are not as important as most people think. It's amazing to think how much money people spend on graphics and how little they spend on the words (content).
If you happen to be one of those folks who think that a Hollywood production is essential for Net success, go take a look at Google's site or Ebay's site and then come back to me. You may have heard of those two companies because they have been fairly successful so far and with 99% of their site being text interface.
So don't be awed by the huge budgets of big companies who put up incredibly splashy sites. It's wordr that win (or lose!) at the end of the day, not graphics.
Graphics are not essential because people are not looking for graphics. Like I always say, put yourself in the shoes or your customer. What are you looking for on the net?
Right.... info. Never be awed by graphics. Just win with words.
Your Look and Feel needs to be consistent with the overall theme of your site. You do want to gain confidence by offering a crisp presentation. Stay away from tons of colors and flying centipedes.
To get a good example of how design can influence viewers' moods, pick up a fashion magazine and scan through the ads. Whether the tone is blatantly obvious (for example, a Victoria Secrets ad = you will be sexy) or subtle (a Ralph Lauren ad = you will be calm and successful), all of these companies have chosen styles that match the mood with the product that they are trying to sell.
Note how the various companies use color, fonts, and images to try to bring across their message to you their want viewer. Some will make you feel tough, sexy, innocent, independent, guilty, successful, etc. These are all basic emotions that they are using to get a single desired result...The Sale (the same as what you are trying to do).
But keep it simple. You want to be Mr. or Mrs. simplicity. Beginners always fall for the flashy approach instead of the more boring simple well written pages.
Always remember to stay focused on the overall theme of your site content, and the impression that you want to make on your visitors.