Web design is as much a science as it is an art. A beautiful site where no one can find anything they want is of no use at all.
My approach to designing a website is to first listen carefully to what the client is saying. What is the purpose of the site? What kind of information needs to be presented, and how much of it is there?
After scoping out these requirements, the site's structure begins to take shape. Now the design can begin taking shape as well. It's a step by step process that involves the client from beginning to end, because in the end it's going to belong to the client, and they need to be thrilled with what they get.