I just got a new book on web development: The Substance of Style, by Virginia Postrel. One of the cover blurbs describes it as an analysis of a major new phenemenon: that people care more about how stuff looks.

To me this a book about the role of looks in software development. What is the value of looks to a user? How do I manage the tradeoffs between usability and style?

In the back of mind what I’m thinking about is Apple’s natural instinct for graphics, and the way they pushed the state of the developers’ art beyond Jakob Neilsen. Given that nothing ever ever ever trumps usability, and that excessive design always always repels users, how does Apple manage the balance so much better than other developers?