Clear icon from the Tango Desktop Project

Every second podcast, advertisement, and spam email hawk their sponsor’s site designs as being beautiful. I credit a certain four-sided shape space for popularising this, though I’m sure there are earlier examples.

It strikes me as an odd adjective to lead a site design with. Not accessible, or easy to use, or simple, or approachable, or efficient, but beautiful. Maybe that term is supposed to encompass the others, but there are better terms to do so.

Beautiful, without a qualifier, is hollow. It doesn’t stand for anything. It offers no utility. There’s a reason people used to say beauty is only skin deep. The same thing applies to design, not least on websites.

This isn’t a semantic whinge; emphasising beauty in place of other attributes leads us to all sorts of accessibility, performance, and privacy problems. But I suppose you can’t argue they’re not pretty!