The Google interface is clean and simple with lots of white space, but the real reason why it is a great design is because it meets google's business need of selling advertisement. Google does not want any distraction or even waste of bandwidth.
Strategy: End-User Needs
So in order to create a great design we have to invest time to define our UX strategy. First we need to ask
- who our users are,
- what these users are trying to accomplish or in other words what is in it for them and
- then how successful they are doing that.
This typically requires research.
Strategy: Business Needs
The second aspect is to understand what the business needs are.
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How do we get there?
- And most important of all how do we define success?
This is really essential for later stages in a project in order to make objective design decisions. We capture all the answers in a short document that we call the UI Strategy OneSheet (Download Word Template (.dotx)) which is literally only one page.
What is good Design?
So what is good design? What is the meaning of life of your application?
Good design is when it has a purpose, when it is useful to somebody.
Defining the UX strategy and capturing what success means is the basis for creating purpose.