For me, there’s a bit of a sliding scale. In general, I think gift cards are a great gift - especially for my family where I run into two problems.
a) I have a bunch of aunts and uncles who are all in the “we’re a couple years from retiring and downsizing our house” phase of their life and are thus actively discouraging purchasing any sort of knick-knack or gadget or display item for their house. Therefore, outside of consumables such as liquor or fancy snacks or fancy coffee or something, it can be really hard to shop for them.
b) On the other hand, I have a lot of younger relatives we traditionally exchange gifts with, but they’re all getting into college age, so getting “grown up” gifts like clothes or dvds or such becomes hard since I don’t 100% know exactly what they have or the style they like - and I am horrible at picking out clothes.
Therefore, I vote a gift card is a great gift, thought they’re on a bit of a sliding scale.
Restaurants are a wonderful item - it’s “go out and have a nice dinner on us”. I try really hard to find though out-of-the-way restaurants or new spots that I have a feeling the recipient would like (e.g. they love italian, and this new place opened recently about 15 minutes away and has had some nice reviews). To me, getting a giftcard to a chain restaurant like an Applebees or Fridays or Olive Garden is “meh”. Finding something unusual or new to try (if the recipient is open to that sort of thing - some people would never go to a new restaurant even for free) shows as much thoughtfulness as going to a store a picking out a nice shirt or a book they’d like.
Below that are gift cards for specific stores or types of stores you know someone likes. Like someone who wears a lot of Old Navy or Gap or Areo or whatever. It’s something they’ll appreciate.
Roughly the same level are gift cards for stores with items you don’t necessarily buy every day - like a Best Buy or such. Lots of “fun” things in Best Buy that someone can use your card for that movie or cd or game that they want, but have been saving up for and/or don’t want to quite spend the money on yet.
Just below that are the “nicer” big stores like a Macy’s. As noted above, pretty much everyone can find something in a Macy’s - be it a kitchen gadget or a new shirt or some shoes or something. It’s also generally upscale, so it’s viewed well.
I usually try to stay away from gift cards from the Targets and Walmarts of the world, because they’re often “everyday” stores, and I just don’t see it being as nice for someone since (also as noted above), they’re as likely as not to buy a mop or cleaning supplies. The only exception to this is if the gift is for a housewarming or specifically-asked-for/on-a-registry … then I vote that person’s going to Target/Walmart/Home Depot anyway and will quite appreciate being able to buy towels or whatever they need from the home-goods dept.
For my part, I don’t mind getting gift cards, but that’s probably a reaction to my father-in-law’s tendency to buy random odd things from craft fairs that are miles away from anything I or my wife would like.