Hey, thanks for these points. This is really helpful.
As far as dealing with the client goes, you are of course correct in saying that the end result should be the best sight/design possible, not 'what the client wants'. Perhaps in some distant reality, that actually works. For now, 70% of my clients either get their way, or I'm forced to make some concession. That's reality. Show me a designer who says it isn't and I'll show you someone who hasn't done much design. I've talked to designers making 10 times what I make...they say the same thing. Once you run through your bag of tricks and the client still wants a puke green background and bright yellow knobs for an interface...guess what, they're going to get it or you don't get paid. Period.
I appreciate the points on hidden text and also the color scheme on the 'light graphics' site. I have found that we're hitting around number one on AltaVista, nowhere to be found on HotBot, etc. Any tips on exactly what sort of 'tricks' work with individual engines? Also, and this ties back into my little rant in the above paragraph, I agree with each and every one of you that more content needs to be on the opening page. I typically design stripped-down graphics and sites. I would like the site to take on more of a traditional 'mall' feel. It may be that we'll work around to that design solution as time passes, but for now, you wouldn't believe what I've had to talk the owners OUT of just to get us to this point. This is the real downside to the process. This company is two years old and it's making over $6 million a year already. The owners have the notion that they 'know what they want' and I have to play my hand slowly to bring them around. As it is, I've already talked them out of *animating* the graphic on the index page (if you can believe that), massive amounts of JAVA, etc.