Another question from Julie...here we go!
It has to be easy to navigate around. So many websites are so confusing. They have such long winded ways of getting to where you want to be and it is often very poorly communicated to the general user. I think that web designers need to keep in mind the fact that so many people are not hugely 'computer literate' and don't know a huge amount about the web and computers in general. A successful website will cater for people of all levels and be very simple and easy in terms of navigation and communication.
Layout is very important for so many reasons. A website that is full of text upon text is not appealing to most people, and therefore would not make for a successful website. The average time people spend on a website before deciding if they are going to move on is 7 seconds. If someone saw a huge amount of text and no pictures to intersperse it then they would more thank likely hit the 'back' button and look elsewhere. Most people need visuals, which is why I believe that photos and images are a great way of making a website more user friendly and therefore more successful.
The color scheme is also very important. If the colors clash badly then it hurts peoples eyes and they will not want to continue looking at it. Similarly, if the background is very 'busy' and therefore makes the text very hard to read, then the user will not want to strain their eyes to try and read it. This also goes for the type of font used. If the font is too small, too 'busy' or blends in too much with the background then this is not a good way to keep the user interested on the site.
There are so many different types of websites and they all need different things to be successful. For example, e-commerce websites need to sell, sell, sell. Therefore they need clear front page summarising what they sell. They need a good mix of images and text which is clear and obvious to the user about what is being sold. Special offers and sale items in eye catching text at the top is always very successful. A site like this would need an easy to understand navigation bar so that the user is able to find what they are looking for quickly and easily, without getting lost, bored or confused.
I know that there are far more components that go into creating a successful website, but I think that these are the basic things that need sorting out first and forehand. So to summarise: Easy navigation, Simple and eye catching layout and text. And a well thought out color scheme.
(I dont think I have a favorite website to show as an example...i will go have a look!)