Does design matter?
There was a fascinating article in the Washington Post today about a social experiment: take one of the best violinists in the world and have him play out of context - in this case, as a street performer in a DC Metro stop. What would happen? Would beauty transcend? How would commuters react? And what is beauty? Is it a fact or merely an opinion? Or is it a little of each, tempered by context?
Read the article to find out the amazing results, but it made me think about websites and web design. (Hey, I'm a geek.)
Ultimately, does it matter how "pretty" your site is? Do the photos, colors, and fonts make any difference? Web designers show off their technical and artistic prowess at sites like the CSS Zen Garden and StyleGala. Meanwile "uglies" like Craigslist, Ebay and MySpace are wildly successful despite their homely appearance.
I think it's important to realize that web design is not just about the look and feel. It's about information architecture and interaction design. It's about form following function. More than anything, it's about the user experience.
Make the user experience rewarding and it won't matter that your colors clash.
Update: Read Seth's take.