Everything is pretty these days and large company websites usually have smooth design elements, because they paid for them. The same thing used to be true with rock concerts, until punk rock came along. When a band was coming to town you would hear about it for weeks on the radio. The concerts were large and extravagant affairs with a little band way down on the floor for everyone to barely see while the music was blasted throughout the arena. In the Eighties small club punk rock took hold and the bands were right in your face, as well as, the flyers and posters of the upcoming shows. Around town there would be hand drawn xerox copy flyers with ransom note fonts and scribbles about random stuff that may or may not relate to the upcoming show on the flyer. These were real community affairs in that the group of people who were interested in the shows knew what was happening, without all the paid advertising.
The internet was supposed to be something like that with information and it is, sorta. Information is funneled through one main source, Google, and if you put something online then it is supposed to be able to be found if it is searched for in a specific way, which means long tail text strings that match what you have on your site. The internet also replaced the phone book in a city by city way with a national phone book.
Problems like fake web pages and spam grew as money could be made from advertising on webpages until the web itself is a phone book that anyone can own a piece of. In order for a larger company to stand out and get recognized on the web it became apparent that they needed to look better than the competition. Also the idea of branding and somehow gaining space through increased visitors could be bought through a good looking webpage also took hold. If a webpage isn't captivating, then why would people stay on it once they get there? Simultaneously web search engines like Google have become more and more complex to the point where it is like a large brain or the Wizard of Oz. The voodoo that is required to get a high ranking on a subject like Funny T-shirts is elusive to many people and companies, thereby making the challenge to have a good looking website even more compelling. My big question is whether or not a little punk rock flyer type webpage, with specific information about a specific subject would be better than a huge fancy webpage with a bunch of junk on it?
Besides the content on a webpage and speed that it loads the page is relevant, but also the popularity of a website is most likely a measure the success for indexing purposes. This is why a page that is fancy with more bells and whistles may outshine a more relevant, but less popular website when it comes to Google. I don't think the shopping cart is anything more than a problem that could negatively influence a webpage or clutter the design, so I am starting to be of the opinion that it should be hidden until it is needed. The problem that arises here is that if it is hidden on a different website than the page with the product information, then it may be a bounce from the website. A shopping cart is nothing more than a form that allows a potential customer to put in information and then that information is transferred through to the vendor for processing, like a fax, but in as data. To keep things simple I have to work on my webpage first and the shopping cart second, which should also free me up to design my webpages anyway I want, just like a punk rock flyer.