It is right that so much of the emphasis in the ideas here speaks to ensuring usable, functional, easy-to-read sites. But I'd like to speak up for beauty a bit.
Assuming they are also functional, I believe beautiful, carefully designed and crafted websites help people feel more confident in the agency or department they are dealing with. It helps them feel the site is current and modern. It can help them to feel that their money is being well spent.
It's the difference between stepping up to a counter and being confronted with a neatly dressed person or someone with a wrinkled shirt stained with mustard. It shows how much you care about the job you are doing. It's like a smile.
When you compare the emotional effect of the craftsmanship that went into our greatest buildings to that of the worst faux-Modernist structures of the Seventies, it's easy to understand the impact of beauty.
And what's more, the cost of making a beautiful site is maybe a bit more time and some practices that encourage/allow the designers to reach more. Unlike physical properties, there are no material costs or dramatic labor differences. It's just a matter of expectations. There's no reason the things we make can't be beautiful. There's no reason we can't tuck in our shirts and sit up straight.
So let's make sure all the things we make are usable, accessible, functional and BEAUTIFUL.