Apparently they work...
As I was wandering through Seth Godin's blog the other day, I saw him mention it. I saw it a few months ago on a design forum. I noticed a mention on Real Estate Webmasters. It has almost become common knowledge.
The sites that are getting massive traffic are ugly.
- Active Rain (sorry guys... this isn't pretty)
Now, usability is another thing entirely... although I would argue that Craigslist doesn't have great usability, either. While there are plenty of categories, searching is always cumbersome to me...
But, these site are VERY effective. Almost 72,000 members of A/R... and growing. And dedicated to the site. Millions of listings on Craigslist and Ebay. So, massive traffic, weak design... Kick butt content.
I hope that the content I have worked so hard on with GarageHomesUSA and LaneBailey is good. This goes to show that SEO tricks and slick design aren't the keys to an effective website... it's content. Worry about content, and not so much about SEO and slick design (and I SO want to have slick design...).