The ways in which we access the Internet are manifold—we get online with our computers, tablets, phones, watches and even our glasses. Once online, we read, watch, listen, share and learn. Through a lot of trial and error, we’ve reached a point where these interactions seem natural to us as great user experience and accessibility have come to the forefront of web design. With that, we’ve also seen the phasing out of some of the quirkier aspects of old web design.
It’s taken a lot of effort to get to where we are today. Those of us who fondly remember the day when our houses first plugged a network cable into our computer (days when there was one computer in the house and no Wi-Fi) will also remember the “amazing” features that every website had. The Internet allowed us to do so much with so little and many of us jumped at the chance to make our mark in this brand new world.
As we’ve now learned, just because we can do certain things doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. After many years of experimentation, learning and adaptation, we can see a gradual phasing out of a number of old web design elements that might have been… well, actual eyesores.
If you’re ready for a healthy dose of nostalgia, let’s take a look at 10 things that were everywhere back in the early days of the Internet that might bring back some good memories.
Our penchant for numbers never fails – and really, what’s the point of having a website if not to show people how popular you are? Since this couldn’t be measured in likes or followers at the time, many personal websites would put one of these bad boys at the bottom of the page:
If you had a Geocities website, then you’ll remember the excitement when your counter went up 20 hits from when you last checked the site last night. “Wow, 20 people looked at my site? Who could they be?!?!!” Those were different days.
It seemed like the logic behind guestbooks was that people would surely want to leave a note before they left a website! After all, it’s only polite to announce your exit. Guestbooks have adapted and some people still put comments up on their sites, but now they’re usually curated and in the form of testimonials or praise (obviously).
Autoplaying MIDI Music
What better way to greet your visitors than to set the mood with some music? Back in the day, many websites felt the need to have audio blast through speakers with no warning whatsoever as soon as a website loaded. Slow Internet speeds meant that large audio files were out of the question, so MIDI files were the old web design standard when it came to generating noise.
It’s easy to understand why this fad began to fade away. No one wants to be checking a website at work and have some lame 8-bit style track blast over their speakers. Nowadays, a content marketer or creator wouldn’t even entertain the idea of such an invasive, distracting and disturbing concept. We don’t even like our ringtones anymore, or to answer our phones—even from people we like. We no longer like to be disturbed.
At the start of the Internet, it was all about marking your territory. For many, that meant… peacocking the heck out of your website. Forget making your text or images the focal point of your website: everything should be the focal point! A simple background? How lame. Intense colors and patterns were the go-to trend in old web design. For a final touch, many people chose practically unrecognizable fonts in clashing colors to really give that je-ne-sais-quoi, unreadable factor to their page.
Clip art was everywhere. It was on every book report and powerpoint and website. This was the first time people had access to… I don’t know if we can call this ‘graphic design’ but… it’s what it was! Everyone finally had access to something that would make their website pop and they made sure to use it. As much as possible and everywhere.
The Cadillac of old web design. If you really wanted to make your website come to life, and you’d already mastered your clip art design chops, you needed something a little extra. And what’s better than an image? An image that moves.
Of course, GIFs are great and still used today—maybe even more than ever, in memes or on social media. That was the lesson learned from the early Internet days: there’s a time and place for GIFs, and it’s not all the time and everywhere. Less is certainly more. And in the world of art, marketing and business, one wrong GIF and your website can lose credibility. Also. They were just plain tacky and it’s ok to admit that. It’s ok to grow.
When you’re cramming as much text, links & GIFs as possible, it’s important to keep them organized. If you’re a fan of Excel spreadsheets then 90s websites were a dream come true, because plain-looking tables were everywhere. And this wasn’t just for information on the page; the website’s frames on the sides, top and bottom were often organized with the same look as well.
Under Construction Notices
As stressful as it is trying to create an amazing site as quickly as possible, what about your legions of fans anxiously waiting by their computer for your website to finally launch? An “Under Construction” notice was pretty common practice in old web design to reassure visitors that you’re hard at work and haven’t forgotten about them. Now, people generally re-launch a page, redirect to a new page or put up a less… aggressive-looking sign.
Speaking of aggressive, why limit your font to the second dimension when you could accost visitors with a combination of font, color, texture AND the most impressive GIF action? Making text jump out at visitors by setting it on fire was actually a thing. We also had icy text, watery text, floating text and various patterns and combinations of them all. Adding animation to the font was dramatic and life-changing.
The web is always evolving, but back then it seemed your computer could never quite evolve fast enough. Chances are, you wouldn’t have the latest version of Flash, Java or Quicktime installed. Or, you were using Netscape when the site worked best on Internet Explorer. The rapid pace of advancement without today’s streamlined update processes meant constant pop-ups, updates and errors were a mainstay of old web design. It also meant that, horror of horrors, your flaming text and animated background were not impressing audiences because they weren’t even loading properly.
Want to create a new website and bring some of these gems back? Start by searching for a great domain name from Hover below: