In his recent article on Site-Reference.com, Mark Daoust reveals the truth behind ugly web design. It’s not about whether the site is ugly or not. The key is simplicity.
I am in total agreement here. My philosophy for web design is to create simple, usable, yet attractive sites. I feel odd emphasizing the contrast between those two worlds (ugly and simple), but it is a common misconception that simple means unattractive. This issue is what Mark’s article addresses. In my experience, simplistic design is sometimes very complicated and hard to achieve. Taking away details and revealing the core of a design is a difficult task.
So what makes a site’s design effective? If it let’s the visitor do what they would like quickly and easily, it is a successful site. That’s it. It can be as ugly or as pretty as you like, but the goal for effective web design is clear communication with your site visitors. A simple design gets out of a visitor’s way and lets them get on with their lives.
Some simple yet good looking sites: the newly re-aligned SimpleBits, GarrettDimon.com, WordRidden (which Jeremy recently redesigned to be simpler…), JeffCroft.com, Cornell University, and the ever-pleasing-to-look-at smallTransport.