I use the word "skin" quite liberally here to also include website design, and assuming that all usability aspects (wording, placement, readability, input element choice, etc.) have been addressed and comply with UX principles.
The word "friendly" can mean easy to use (cognitive component) and simultaneously makes the user feel comfortable (affective component). "Friendly" can also mean acceptable according to today's [often unspoken] graphic requirements?
From a website designer's perspective as he or she coded in the year 2003, websites in the mid-late 1990s were considered absolutely horrendous - from graphic styles and quality (glaring background images, hard bevels on tables, etc.) to textual "infractions" such as "email me", "click here for", or "please sign my guestbook". In 2003, we started to see these messages disappear, and started to see a lot more white space, subtle drop shadows, bold colors, gradients, and rounded corners.
However, that 1990s look seemed to make a come back at the peak of the "MySpace generation" around 2006. Since then, I have read books on web design stating that such a look is acceptable (and dare they even said recommended) if your audience is likely "tech unsavvy". They recommended the 1990s look to websites for pet breeders, family-owned establishments (WHAT!?), novelty shops, ethnic restaurants/grocery, independent jewelers, etc. They claim that such a look makes the likely audience "at ease" and "emotionally comfortable", thus such designed websites are people-friendly.
Does this still hold true? Can we still design such "friendly" websites with "ugly skins" as long as they conform to UX principles?