Key elements now include graphical content (this doesn't mean flash or random animations, simply a graphical navigation helps alot) and Navigation system. It needs to be clean and organized, random content of every page, or a difficult navigation turn visitors away like putting a maze at your front door.
One thing I would suggest is studying successful newspaper and billboard designs. Develop a hook to get visitors in. This could be something like promising something for free if they register or an example of your content.
I agree with KHO above that you should have everything organized. If someone goes to your site and it is a mountain of text, they're not going to want to read it and will move on. If they see some nice graphics and well organized content and content that seems useful, they'll stay.
Good luck on your site!
Also keep in mind what your visitors are going to want. Try to see the site from there perspective. Generally clean, simple and easy to use.