What makes a great website? Is it the site which has the highest budget? Is it the site which has the greatest SEO done on it? Or is it the site which has the best information in total? Maybe it’s none of those things, and it’s the site which has the best flash animations and has the slickest color scheme. You know that the question which started this paragraph is a trick question, right? The best possible answer to what makes a great website is whatever the client wants it to be. Let’s review that- the greatest websites are the ones which the client is the most impressed with.
If you spend all of the time trying to make what you consider to be a great website, and it ultimately comes out looking like the best thing you ever committed to a browser (the gem of your portfolio, to be sure), you might still find that the client is less than dazzled by it. Oddly enough, sometimes a piece of your work that you consider to be mediocre at best is precisely what the client desires. Yeah, there really is no accounting for taste. The important point is that to make a great website, you have got to give your clients what they want most, whatever that might be.
Granted, this is going to take a lot of thought and some spot on communications. Unfortunately, the days when you could just sit in front of the computer and hash out code (and dazzle people with anything you wanted to produce) are long gone. Nowadays, everybody wants everything custom, and everybody has their own set of personal fetishes. Like it or not, it’s their great website.