We need to define one or two colors that will be main color/s of the website. Black and shades of gray can be used in addition to that. More than two colors can make a website look unprofessional – we need to be careful about that.
Unless there is a real need, we should always go for a white / very light colored background for the main block along with black / dark gray text. A dark colored body background can be added to give a contrast to the white content background.
For background, we can also use a related image, rather large, converted to black and white, and with an opacity and fill of about 30 – 50%.
There are a lot of beautiful fonts available now a day from Google web fonts. What we are looking for here is a font that makes reading easy and not something that dances in every direction.
If you have the luxury of creating the logo, make it on a transparent background, and in 300 pixels / inch resolution. Take care that the logo you are making goes well in different support, as in leaflet, brochure, business card, website, etc.
A reduced version of your logo, 32px X 32px and saved in .png can be served as the favicon (those small icons that we see on browser tabs of a website).
Width and alignment:
A width of around 950 pixels and center aligned seems a good idea now a day.
If we have only 3 / 4 items in the menu, a top horizontal one could be a good idea. However, a problem with this design is that if tomorrow things develop and we need to have, say 10 items on the menu, things can get too tight at the top, as we never have menu in two lines. So a safer idea is always to go for a left side vertical menu. That way we can always have many more menu items that we need on most small websites.
For larger website, however, we are using more more mega menu now a day. The idea of a mega menu is to divide the whole menu in 4 or 5 main menus, that stay on the top as items of a horizontal menu. On hovering those items, we get all the sub menus on a popup. The site of La Banque Postale is an interesting case study on this.