The best websites are useful and ugly

Functionality and usefulness are more important than how nice and elegant your site looks.

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We spent a day driving along the Grand Canyon and then up into the equally magnificent scenery of Utah. But along with the otherworldly beauty what also struck me was the poverty that surrounded the Canyon.

For all its stunning beauty, The Grand Canyon would not be a great place to live. Certainly, you would have a hard life if you lived in the middle of the Canyon itself. And, given the steepness and inaccessibility it would be hard to imagine how a city the size of New York could develop there.

The things we think are the most beautiful are often the least useful in a practical and functional sense. Mount Everest is beautiful. Gold, jewelry and diamond rings are beautiful. Do certain things increase in beauty as they lose practical function?

There is no question that certain designs can be made both beautiful and functional. But for other design challenges, the more beautiful the design is made, the less functional and easy to use it becomes. This is particularly true for websites.

eBay, Amazon, Google, Craig’s List, MySpace and YouTube are ugly websites. They are also hugely successful.

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