Design for users. That sounds so obvious, but it's not. Almost always, when we see bad Web sites, they were designed for the designers themselves or for their clients. The point is not what you like or what your manager or even the CEO likes. It's difficult to reject your own preferences, but the key to creating a good experience for users is to design with them in mind.
Remember, you are not your average user. Your boss is not your average user. Presumably, both you and your boss are smart, and you probably know much more about computers and the Internet than your average user does. But even if you are targeting an audience of highly educated geeks, you still are different from them in one key area: You know more and care more about your company and your products. To you, they are special, different, and probably better than the competition's.
Keep your users at the center of your design project. Be humble. Listen to them. They'll make you successful.
Not so for prospective customers, who are evaluating all offers equally and may have no knowledge of your product line or your special internal terminology. Since their perspective is different from yours, they will judge your site differently. In the end, the only thing that matters is whether they like it and use it. Creating elaborate and unconventional interfaces because they seem more interesting isn't enough. Being interested in your users is what earns you their business and loyalty.
Know your target users. They have expectations for your site based on their experiences with others. A unique site that is incongruous with what's familiar disrupts their workflow and causes confusion. It's more difficult to learn something new than to repeat the familiar, and people are not on your site to work extra hard to get answers. Any additional cognitive burden on them translates directly into lost business for you.
Choose function before form. Creative designs are delightful, but don't assume that people want to be constantly stimulated or engaged. Using Web sites is not usually the key to happiness; for most people, it's something they want to get over with so that they can get back to playing with their kids. Because they don't care about technology, computers, or Web sites for their own sake, most people prefer sites that balance design with simplicity. They appreciate sites that are aesthetically pleasing, but they balk if the design gets in the way. Combine creativity and usability to achieve a harmonious and effective design.