I’m a fan of simplicity. If I can’t understand the purpose of a website at first glance, I’m not inclined to stick around, much less come back.
This is where blogs have a big advantage over other kinds of software. They’re instantly recognizable for what they are, and modern blogging services offer a variety of ways to easily create sidebars and other ancillary material. The downside is that users tend to pick popular blog themes, which can make them feel less unique.
A new wrinkle in the look-and-feel category is the rise of mobile technology: More and more people are looking at the world through small devices with small screens. Be sure to check out the way your site looks on a mobile phone. If it’s a gigantic mess, find a way to make it usable even on a small device. (See our online discussion of this at Mediactive.com.)
Whatever you decide about how your site looks, remember that in the end your taste is your own. Do it your way.