90s Web Design: A Nostalgic Look Back
A nostalgic look back at 90s web design, and a warning to anyone whose website is an accidental anachronism. Remember the days when every PC was beige, every website had a little Netscape icon on the homepage, Geocities and Tripod hosted just about every single personal homepage, and "Google" was just a funny-sounding word? The mid-late 1990s were the playful childhood of the worldwide web, a time of great expectations for the future and pretty low standards for the present. Those were the days when doing a web search meant poring through several pages of listings rather than glancing at the first three results--but at least relatively few of those websites were unabashedly profit-driven. Hallmarks of 1990s Web Design Of course, when someone says that a website looks like it came from 1996, it's no compliment. You start to imagine loud background images, and little "email me" mailboxes with letters going in and out in an endless loop. Amateurish, silly, unprofessional, conceited, and unusable are all adjectives that pretty well describe how most websites were made just ten years ago.
Why were websites so bad back then? Knowledge. Few people knew how to build a good website back then, before authorities like Jakob Nielsen starting evangelizing their studies of web user behavior. Difficulty. In those days, there weren't abundant software and templates that could produce a visually pleasing, easy-to-use website in 10 minutes. Instead, you either hand-coded your site in Notepad or used FrontPage.
They were monuments to the egos of the websites' owners. Still, today, when so many business website owners are working so hard to wring every last bit of effectiveness out of their sites, it's almost charming to think of a business owner actually putting ego well ahead of the profit to have been derived from all the visitors who hit the "back" button rather than sit through an animated logo. Text Troubles "Welcome to…" Every single website homepage in 1996 had to have the word "welcome" somewhere, often in the largest headline. After all, isn't saying "welcome" more vital than saying what the web page is all about in the first place? Background images. Remember all those people who had their kids' pictures tiled in the background of every page? Remember how much fun it was trying to guess what the words were in the sections where the font color and the color of the image were the same? Dark background, light text. My favorite was orange font on purple background, though the ubiquitous yellow white text on blue, green or red was nice, too. Of course, anyone who will make their text harder to read with a silly gimmick is just paying you the courtesy of letting you know they couldn't possibly have written anything worth reading. Entire paragraphs of text centered. After all, haven't millennia of flush-left margins just made our eyes lazy? "This Site Is Best Viewed in Netscape 4.666, 1,000x3300 resolution.
Of course, there are still some websites whose owners seem to be trying to spark a resurgence in animated gifs, background images, and ugly text. 'll just have to trust that everyone is laughing with them, not at them.
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