I think that the first question is whether the web site is to present and enter data or whether it is to look good. When the web page has 960 pixels specified as a fixed value, it limits the ability to view it under a variety of conditions. Sure adaptive design can insert code to modify the image to appear correctly on various sized computer, notebook and smart phone screens. However, I’m not going to be able to think of all of the possibilities and it will either look strange or fail in some situations. If you take a look at some of the frameworks, the complexity of the framework is due to providing the same appearance on multiple browsers and configurations even though the HTML specifications say that the appearance may vary between browsers. (The words “may” and “should” appear in a lot of places in the standard.)
I have seen web sites where it is impossible to change the type size by zooming in or out, including one on AARP. There are web sites where zooming in and out may cause the page to become unreadable, espeicially the ones that specify the size of components in absolute pixel sizes.
The question is whether “best practices” are really best practices. If you add all the bells and whistles, you end up with a deafening noise. If you called the design “plain”, “primitive”, “naive”, “simplistic”, “Bauhaus”, “Swedish Modern”, or “art deco” instead of “brutal” would you feel differently about it. In many parts of the world “sophisticated” is viewed as a slur on designs, representing complication for the sake of complication. The bells, whistles, and gingerbread can distract the user from the information on the site.
I’m sorry about the length of the rant, but I am extremely tired of people who create unusable web sites and then brag about the quality of their work.