A Look at the Differences Between Website Design 1999 v 2019

  in  Website Design
I can't believe it's been over 20 years since I started developing websites. Since the beginning of the internet, I've been churning out HTML documents...and I've seen a LOT of changes in how websites have been developed through the years. These days you can do it all virtually online: pick a website template, use an online logo generator like Turbologo (see here), then add your content directly via your website's control panel (almost every website now is content managed), and away you go. Back in 1999 it was a whole other ball game.

Let's take a trip back to 1999 and see what website design looked like back then, and compare it to today's reality.

Google had only just been launched, and some people were STILL calling the internet "cyberspace"...yes, they were. Facebook wasn't even a twinkle in Zuckerberg's eye. Social media wasn't really a thing, though Metafilter, ICQ messaging, newsgroups and email were the prototypical ways the early adopters communicated.

In terms of website design, usability and accessibility wasn't much of a consideration. We were moving out of the mid-90s fetish for animated GIFs and garish backgrounds and into the "future" of vector-based animated websites, with Macromedia Flash being a popular platform to created animated websites. The more conceptual the website, the "better". A modern web designer would wonder how earlier developers could afford such luxuries without considering accessibility and usability. The answer was easy: there was so little competition online at that time. You could rank sites quite easily with crude forms of link building. Conceptual designs were sold to businesses as a way to "stand out".

E-commerce was just starting to make its way online, and with the complexity that e-commerce brings, it heralded the idea of the website template.

In terms of devices, there really wasn't an internet outside of desktop computing. Tablets were still years away, as was the smartphone.

From the internet user's perspective, it was a really cool place to be. It still had that enthusiast's vibe to it. It was unpolished and authentic - much like a quaint town full of curious shops and communities.

What to say? The internet has matured incredibly since 1999 - in some ways good, in some ways...bad.

The good? Many devices can now view the internet - the tablet and smartphone have been established for a long time now. It's never been easier for people to buy things, or get the information they need. Web designers have focused heavily on usability and accessibility in recent years, making the internet a less daunting place for the disabled and everybody in general. The real beneficiaries of this evolution have been the internet user, and that's a good thing! The internet is fast, reliable, and many people now even do their work here too.

The bad? It could be argued that the internet is now basically just a handful of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon etc). Big companies have tightened their control, meaning the internet is no longer a quaint town, but a honed, market-research-shaped glitzy shopping mall. Small business owners have been rail-roaded onto the big e-commerce platforms (Amazon, eBay) to sell their wares. Google have made search a "pay to play" ad-delivery channel. Money has left its mark on the place. The internet has grown up, it looks professional, but it's lost its innocence in the process.

Overall though, we have to say the internet has been an incredible success. Billions are online now and entire economies are now embedded into the internet.