When I was a young and inexperienced web designer, I was once asked what made a great web design. I blithely responded with something like "lots of cool graphics and moving objects!". I cringe when I remember this particularly dreadful moment in my life. My real concern, however, is with aspiring web designers today. I am an avid participant in online discussion forums and hear and deal with this issue frequently.
Web design is a true art. Web site success stories are hatched after strong considerations over content placement, graphics and template design are thoroughly scrutinized. This process may (in fact, it should) take time to complete -- days, weeks and perhaps even months depending on the complexity of the site.
The question of what it takes to create a great web site must be taken into context. Search engines, for example, most likely wish to create a faster loading site, perhaps compromising the amount of graphics. Media companies, however, most definitely place higher credence on the design, including graphics and other visual enhancements.
Therefore, the question here is largely subjective to the type of site it is applied to, and I will keep these considerations very general and applicable to all types of sites throughout this article.