Here is a very good article about website design for utility over beauty. To quote:
After all, this is a media company whose magazines, books, products and programs feature ideas about attractive and tasteful lifestyles. Why not a beautiful Web site? "That was a big mistake," Wenda Harris Millard, the company's president of media, said this week during a panel discussion at Advertising Week. "We put beauty before utility." She said the front page, with its video player and jazzy graphics, included only about five links to actual content, "so the things people were looking for couldn't be found."
One of the many Web 2.0 trends is the rise of information over form. Back in the early days of the web, I remember people trying to duplicate a paper experience on the screen. Then, websites became video games challenging users to explore to find what they needed. Now it is all about the information and getting to it as quickly as possible.
And THAT is why the left navigation on my website gets pushed down to the bottom of the page on earlier versions of Internet Explorer. :)