As a person who was around during the big Internet boom of AOL, I feel like I’m entitled to say I’m knowledgeable on the development of website design over the past 21 years (Sheesh, I’m old.). Or I at least have an educated, very strong opinion.

1990s Website

I was surprised to see this website still exists. And what’s maybe even more surprising….the site was updated October of 2014. Oh, bless their Bengal cat loving hearts. Let’s focus.

Clearly, websites have come a long way since the ’90s.

5 Website Features and How They Have Changed over Time

Does anyone remember when LiveJournal.com came out?? That was my first experience with “web design” as you had the ability to adjust fonts, colors, add images, etc., and it. was. fancy. (NOT.) But it sure did feel like your “own website.” Oh! And what about that counter feature, the little strip of numbers illustrating how many hits the website had received?? That was way popular. And then MySpace with personaliz– I digress.

We’ve all seen the trends come and evolve, but let’s take a trip down Website Memory Lane, shall we? (Don’t be scared, I’ll hold your hand.)

Home Page Content

Then…

In the ’90s, a website’s content was…everywhere, whether looking at the home page or the sub-pages. It was like a bulletin board of “Let’s include this! And this! And this!” Organization was not necessarily considered a priority and content was just strewn about. “Just GET it on the page! Hurry!”

Now…

The organization of website content has come a long way. Design companies and their clients now go through (or should) a streamlined process to gather and edit content. A website’s home page should provide the information visitors want to see. If you overload your home page with a bunch of craziness, chances are your visitor is going to bounce.

Keep your content clean and concise. Show your viewer who you are, share your content information, and clearly illustrate where they can go from there.

Navigation

Then…

Sorry (not sorry), but when I’m looking at a website with any sort of blocked, side navigation I’m usually thinking, “Wow. That’s ’90s.” It’s not that the navigation of the ’90s wasn’t adequate at guiding people around their respective websites; it’s more-so the style of them. Or in the case above, the sheer number. Make some of that into a sub-nav, yo!

Now…

Your website’s navigation should clearly guide your visitors where they want to go or where they might like to go. It’s not necessary to list every single sub-page within the main navigation. Keep it minimal, yet illustrate the possibilities. The site above has a mere 6 page navigation, but it supplies visitors with all the important direction their guests need to check out the menu or contact the restaurant. Consider drop-down navigation for less important pages as STG Pizzeria has done with their “Menu” sub-pages.

Typefaces

Then…

Sadly, when websites first began popping up on the Internet, the font choices were few and far between; if the computer viewing the website didn’t have a particular font installed, the text wouldn’t show up! In 1996 Microsoft released a project called Core Fonts for the Web or the standard group of fonts for the web. This included the standard Arial, Comic Sans (Never use that.), Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, and a few others. That’s it. Exciting, huh? Boring serif, boring sans serif.

Now…

In the new modern website world, many computers have many fonts, and the web safe font standards list has grown. But for those special fonts you’re dying to use, regardless of your viewer’s computers having said fonts, there is GoogleFonts and @FontFace. Both of these utilize back-end computer programming to skirt around the “Does your computer have this font?” issues.

In the ’90s, fonts were simply used to get words on the screen, but now, instead of merely supplying information, fonts are used to help create the design.

Backgrounds

Then…

Honestly…do I really need to say anything here?

Now…

Did I pick the above example because it’s a food website? …..maybe. But it’s a perfect illustration of how much has happened over the years to website backgrounds. They have gone from insanity to patterns and solid colors to lovely, big photographs. And personally, being a photographer, the latter is my favorite. I LOVE the above image and call-out placement and minimal navigation. The colors of the photograph, the cropped photo, no unnecessary text overlay…love it.

Colors

Then…

Can we say NEON?! Wow. Yes, I’m using the Bengal Cat site again. It’s a perfect illustration of the colors used in ’90’s websites. (And there’s that boxy side navigation I was referencing above.) I remember a lot of black backgrounds with the most vibrant text possible. In design, we often talk about elements “standing out” and perhaps the ’90’s website font color choices was the origin of this idea. Because those colors, if nothing else, pop.

Now…

Website colors didn’t necessarily go toward “boring” but more appropriately, “thoughtful”. The use of colors in today’s websites are cohesive, planned. They aren’t tossed around willy-nilly. Joyride Taco House’s website is surely colorful! But in a “less is more” sort of way, using only three main colors, all of which are drawn from their logo. The rest of the color comes from the video that cycles below their contact information illustrating their yummy looking foods and vibrant environment. (Now I want tacos.)

And we’ve come, to the end of the road…

Long story short, websites have come a long way, and the trends will just keep coming. What do you think the websites of tomorrow will look like?

Resources

Thanks to Best Web Gallery and The Best Designs for lovely web design. And to Blueprint Design Studio and Mental Floss for awful awesome ’90’s websites that still exist.

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