The Power of Simplicity (and Heavy Plasmas)
One of the best PC games of my youth was X-COM: UFO Defense (known in the UK as "UFO: Enemy Unknown"). Released in 1993, it instantly became a favorite among players and critics alike. The game tasked players with commanding a secret, multinational organization that researches and intercepts hostile aliens looking to take over the planet. There were two modes: the "Geoscape", a globe on which the player could monitor alien activities and manage X-COM's secret bases, and the "Battlescape", a turn-based tactical combat interface for when X-COM operatives investigate a crashed UFO (or come to rescue a city that is being terrorized by the aliens). The two modes meshed perfectly. Exploring crash sites was always a tense affair as your operatives crept slowly through the scene looking for surviving aliens; recovering alien artifacts from the crash, though, would make you excited to get back to the geoscape so your scientists could start research, eventually letting your operatives use those alien artifacts themselves.
This interplay between the two modes made X-COM incredibly addictive. Each research project made you eager to get into another fight, and each fight made you eager to start new research projects, until you finally knew enough about alien technology (and the aliens themselves) to take a team of operatives to the alien base on Mars and win the game.
The key to X-COM's success was its simplicity. There have been some attempts to revitalize X-COM for a new generation of players, but none of them have succeeded; every time, the developers decide that there needs to be more complexity, like a real-time combat system or a more dynamic geoscape mode. These developers are missing the mark; the passage of the day/night cycle on the geoscape was activity enough given the stress of attempting to meet tight research and engineering deadlines before the governments that fund X-COM get dissatisfied and sign secret pacts with the aliens (permanently turning against you in the process). And the turn-based nature of X-COM's combat kept it suspenseful - you would have to seriously contemplate which soldier to move into the alien craft first, since you would have no way of knowing what was waiting inside, heavy plasma at the ready.
Yadda yadda, what does this have to do with websites?
[L]et's acknowledge that the only people who really care if your web site is cute are: 1. You 2. Your Client (until they're educated) 3. Other web designers (who are a dying breed anyway) Now, it's probable that none of these people is in your target audience.
The answer, says Scratchmedia, is a shift to "web architecture." While certainly important for other reasons, I think web architecture finally gives designers a reason to sell simplicity to their clients. If you can measurably prove that a simple site will get just as many visitors and just as high a conversion rate as a complicated site that a client may see as more "edgy," then you have a powerful tool with which to sell simplicity. Simple sites in turn give you (and your client) faster development, easier maintenance, and more satisfied customers. Sure, the CSS galleries of the Web may become a bit more barren, but there's always room for pure art - it just no longer belongs in the business sites of 90% of your clients. If web design - a field that tends toward flourish and embellishment - can embrace simplicity, then maybe there is hope for the true X-COM re-make I've been waiting for after all.
Oh, and about those heavy plasmas: One of the most important alien artifacts was a weapon called the heavy plasma. Around mid-game, nearly every alien your operatives encounter will be carrying a heavy plasma, meaning your operatives will collect warehouses full of them in short order. Contrary to its name, the heavy plasma isn't a particularly heavy weapon, but it does a large amount of damage (killing most aliens in a single hit) with a fairly high rate of accuracy. Once you can start using heavy plasmas, you really don't have to use any other weapon for the rest of the game. Another example of simplicity in action.