I have pride myself on having a good design aesthetic, but sometimes what seems good is not good enough. My process in the beginning of a project is to give the customer a chance to give me feedback on the basic look/feel. Is the design for you (the customer) or is it for the visitor?
It is both. There is a sense of ego (id) going into the design that can be detrimental to the finished product, while not being narcissistic, but satisfying the customer aesthetic. They write the check that pays for the site. The visitor needs to want to come back and the designer has to make sure, when possible, that this happens.
Color schemes entertain the eye while content that is interesting or desired brings them back. Some colors are about trust while others are about action. A site serving a particular function or service, if it is a value produces the visitor flow on its own. No matter how it is labeled unless the site is compelling and/or useful people do not come back.
This is an impact on search engine ranking. A site that is static and inactive without any dynamic content may not advance much in the scheme of things. Actively marketing and creating links into the site will help it. But quick and easy ways of improving content is by adding widgets or even a twitter reader that adds fresh information with your tweets.
My design approach is to be easy to use and navigate, create visual interest, and meet the needs of my customers. Although sometimes it is hard to maintain the balance, one just does it. Is it successful or not?
Getting critical feedback is like pulling teeth. Peers and leaders are not out there willing to critique. Better to say nothing if you do not have anything nice to say? My door is always open to my customers and peers who want to offer feedback. It can be done right here by clicking the COMMENTS link below or by emailing me directly.