In all this discussion of the elements of a website, and in starting with the end in mind, I have to ask:
When can a website be considered successful?
I think the answer to this question is pretty easy. If my site doesn’t show up on a “Best Designed” list or if it isn’t in the top ten page results for Google searches, it can still be considered successful if it does or exceeds what it was designed to do. My first website for ForeverLawn of Tampa Bay probably won’t garner a lot of interest in Japan, but if there is a significant increase in sales locally and an increasing amount of traffic throughout its first year, the client and I would consider it a success.
If the rest of the ForeverLawn dealers in North America use our website as a template for their businesses, I would consider it a success, also. If I, as a designer, have my own portfolio site, I would want it to appear on a top design list. If I have a site that strives to be the end-all-be-all for fashion trends and blogging, I’d want it to be in the top Google results globally.
I think the success of a site is measured by how well it does what it is designed to do. Any other recognition, is the icing on the cake.