I totally agree. Developers are not designers, except for a handful of truly rare individuals (the inverse is also true). I’d say don’t try and learn how to build beautiful websites if you’re a developer - either, you’re gifted and you already can, or there is simply too much learning involved. Instead, just try to build websites that don’t suck.
Not every site has to be a work of art, just as every ceiling doesn’t have to be the Sistine chapel’s. If you need to build the Sistine chapel, remember it’s a team effort. You can build the structure - and get a specialist to make the ceiling pretty.
I think that what Jeff has described is a good first step - know your tools. Then the really interesting stuff - typography, and graphic design. FWIW, I’m fascinated by it - just a bit ropey about it’s execution. Still, I usually mean my objective - don’t let it suck.