Try googling for good web design and take a look at the folks that are setting themselves up as authorities on this subject. I know that content is more important than style, but content is only readable if it is laid out correctly. Try reading, for example a manuscript of part of the New Testament. Originally it would have been written without any punctuation or spaces between words. Words that didn’t fit on a line just continued on the next one – no hyphens. It takes hard work to get the meaning from content alone. Bad design is design that makes extracting the content difficult – users just leave.
In today’s world this means that any plain text site will be passed over in favour of the same content placed in a pleasant setting. By that I mean sensible design that helps to make the content stand out: simple graphics that complement; colours slightly softer than plain black for text, whilst still having sufficient contrast to be easily read; well thought out text sizes for titles, headings, body text; a layout that presents the content and links in a meaningful manner, with main links easily viewable and clickable. The sum of the parts must be aesthetically pleasing if it is to allow the user to take in the content.
We deserve web sites purporting to pronounce judgement on good web design that are actually well designed themselves rather than the equally offputting poles of single column, large text size sites and slow loading graphic laden design disasters. Anyone who knows of any genuinely good sites relating to good web design, please get in touch.
PS. Even I have heard of www.alistapart.com