My approach to designing anything is to just do what I feel. Firms and designers sometimes present their design process as an overly complex thought process (I do it sometimes too for the sake of presentation), but it always comes down to a random spark of an idea that gets the process going; towards creating something original.
I see two approaches to design— an evidence based approach, or simply go with your intuition and see what comes of it. I prefer the latter.
Of course I adjust things like colors and typography carefully to suit the project, then work on developing the user experience with a whole lot of A/B tested stats that go towards designing an end product that not only looks good but also gets results. But there’s always one original spark or piece of inspiration which is the core of the whole design — something like the minimalistic approach that defines the whole project, the animations, the decision to just go b/w or to just use a monochromatic scheme.
You’ll never find the next best thing by not doing something new. Design innovation comes from creating things out of pure intuition. F**k the generic best performing design that could work just as well. This applies to things far beyond web design by the way.
I’ve seen too many cheap web designs where the only focus is to shovel the information out. You could spot one from a mile away. Generic web fonts, no thought-out typographic hierarchy, flawed proportions; in short these designs show a distinct lack of life, rhythm and taste. It’s like getting your full course dinner served as a single tasteless paste — because it still gets you the nutrients right?
So here’s a thought for your next design project: think, inspire and daydream until you hit that idea jackpot (you’ll know when you do). Then just create it. Adjust later.