In my case, I am planning to design how a website looks; I am a bit of a newbie. I'd love to learn :) Are there any books that I can refer to?
So for something like website design, the first step is research which has two main sides to it: understanding the purpose of the design, and understanding the client and/or the brief. The first is the most important for the site being a success. The last is most important for making sure you get paid!
For the purpose, it comes down to two main aspects:
For the client, there might be an account manager who's in charge of making you understand the client's needs and making the client understand why your designs are a good idea.
If there isn't, this comes down to people skills. Ask questions, get them to show you examples of what they like and have them explain why they like it, and get lots of feedback at every step. No matter how small the job, get a proper brief written up and signed (you'll probably need to help them write this up unless they've got an experienced design account manager), and a contract which gives you room to charge more if they go against the agreed brief and change their mind about what they want mid-project. Make sure they understand that idea development is as much a part of the work as the final finished product.
Your ability to get them to sign off a design (and then sign off your cheque) will depend on how well you understand what they want, so really get inside their head.
When you've done this, you should have a crystal clear idea of what you're doing and why, and ideas should come naturally. Develop several ideas - don't just go with the first one you like, compete with yourself trying to beat your last favourite idea. Test often, and get other people's feedback often (especially from the client).
Also, keep in mind this classic diagram of the creative process from Daniel Newman:
Finishing making the thing is the easy bit.
Design basically boils down to this:
For beginners, I would recommend these books to get started:
This will teach you the basics of UX patterns when structuring your website, which is vital for creating good experiences when browsing your site
A very short read, but this will teach you the basics of what makes good visual design - loose rules for colors, contrast, gestalt shapes, spacing, etc. It was printed back in the day and intended for print design, but I think the rules can still be applied to the web
Graphic Design Thinking www.amazon.com/Graphic-Design-Thinking-Briefs/dp/1568989792/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394138531&sr=1-1&keywords=Graphic%20Design%20Thinking
If you want to move beyond designing a website theme and towards designing a brand for a company (which includes their website), you might want to learn brainstorming techniques such as mind mapping, brand matrixes, the use of visual metaphors, and tying it all back together to create a consistent and holistic brand experience (though this is merely a starting point, it is much more complicated than this).
In addition, there are a TON of online resources to guide you towards the right direction:
Under Consideration www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/
A favorite for designers to review and discuss recent rebranding efforts for companies, big and small
More of a resource for icon creation, which is a small part of web design (but a very important visual one)
A List Apart www.alistapart.com/topics
Covers just about everything you want to know about web design
52 Weeks of UX www.52weeksofux.com/
The typeface you use in photoshop/illustrator/whatever program will not be the same as what you see online. This website eliminates that confusion
I'm also a newbie in web design.. but I have one good advice for you.. search and search and look for the best website designs in the world, that will rich your creativity and is a very good way for inspiration.. It's totally fine for your first website to be a mixture of a few ideas which you already saw in other websites.. later on you will be able to create your own method and own style.. Good luck :)
P.S: Here's one cool inspirational website I like, hope you find it useful http://coolhomepages.com/
The world of design is still stuck in an era where designers are seen as people who have 'divine inspiration' and come up with ideas out of the blue. However, in fact it is the opposite- designers get inspiration from working with people, trying things, doing research, understanding better the client and context. Its common sense stuff really. If you don't consider fully what it is you are trying to make from the perspective of how it will go on working in the world after you finish it then you might end up making something that is a pain in the ass for others.