This is another post.
One of the ways that I want to mix the fun of yesterday with the potential today is giving my websites a “born in the 1990s” look.
Unfortunately, when others think of “1990s websites”, they come up with this:
Meanwhile, when I was researching the designs of old websites, I found the Web Design Museum, a website that showed different website designs over the years. While browsing there, I noticed that the websites which designs appealed to me were set in the 1998-2001 range.
Honestly, that makes sense.
- 1998 was the year where I first used the Internet, while 2000 (probably not 2001) was the year where I got at-home Internet access.
- At that time, the Internet already had some maturation time since web servers and browsers came up since 1990. There was a growth of not only the Internet’s capability but also in people’s knowledge on visual design in therms of the Internet.
- “Multimedia” was a buzzword. No longer were you restricted to just text; computers can now give you not only pictures but also sounds and even videos… all interactively! (Fittingly, “interactive” was another buzzword.) Neither were hollow terms either; computers can now perform deeper teaching… or deeper fun!
- Of course, 2D Will Never Die said in its original article that the Twin Towers incident in September 11, 2001 was a shock that shook up the zeitgeist. That seems to have ended the 1990s party.
In all this, I seem to have discovered the Internet right at “the sweet spot”: technology has matured to high capabilities, but the zeitgeist still kept its good taste until I have fully formed my first impressions and mental framework of what the Internet was.
Let me share with you a few examples of how the Internet loved good taste back then (and how that good taste is lost today).
My central example would the the Disney website. Back then, the website had this look:
Does this not inspire some exploration? Blue takes both center stage and the supporting crew in this layout. In fact, different shades of blue differentiate themselves without looking garish. The blue even seeps into the sitemap while giving a reason to the blue color; Disneyland Online (I am going to call the planet in the map that) is set in space! The white and yellow lettering help this motif. What really makes this website inviting is the Disneyland itself: right off the bat, the different lands represent different sections of the site, the lands using that cartoony feel that makes Disney recognizable and appealing. Add some interactivity and you get a neat framing device: your computer travels on the information super highway drove you to a land where Disney Magic manifests itself! This is an excellent use of online multimedia.
…bu suppose that your computer could not handle such magic? Fortunately, there is that link that lets you switch to the Lite website…
…which has this look, instead. This design, other than fitting a break from the framing device, is light on resources and light on colors. The sections are also uncluttered, leaving one news item per section. There are also quick links to prominent webpages, fitting the more straightforward construction. Despite this, Disney’s website manages to keep the appeal using images per each news item. The only flaw I see is that the Disney logo has a clashing background because of the stripes.
Now, how does the Disney website look around the time I am writing this?
That is painful and heavy. The website does not seem to be content with merely leading you to the content: instead, the website rushes towards shoving every type of content to you at once. While there is a form of grouping, the vertical format may fit smartphone browsers, and this may fit people who want to give the website only a cursory glance, the effect of this website is confusing. There is no framing device or even discrete organization; everything is crowding towards you. Worse, this would be heavy on low-strength devices, but there is no “Lite” version.
In fact, this summarizes a big shift in websites. They once tried to give you a distinctive and inviting look & feel, even using multimedia in the process, but they now try to shove everything to you at once, instead… substance over style. This progress breaks 3 rules on good taste:
- Fun that is bright, colorful, energetic, and even goofy feels good.
- Emphasize character, not monotony.
- Emphasize style, not ballooning cost.
Websites on video games go even worse. Back then, they provided mini-sites that were not satisfied with merely describing the game. Instead, the mini-websites pulled you into the game’s world and let you play around there. From sample minigames to expansions of the game world, each mini-site gave that little extra something that rewarded you taking your time. At the end, the mini-site gave you a few downloadable “souveniers”… normally desktop wallpapers or messenger icons, but other toys were not out of the question.
My example here would be the old ChuChu Rocket! website:
From what you can see, the aesthetic of the game is integrated in this mini-site. In this case, hints provide the browser an extra touch.
Unfortunately, video games today normally get a different kind of online representation:
Where is the fun in this?
Worse, if you try to go to the Official Game Site, you end up here:
Some of these games do not even have description pages; they instead dump you into different websites where you can buy the game.
Thankfully, not all websites had abandoned good taste. Some old websites remain up, though they tend to be outside the United States of America. There are also new websites that carry on these traditions.
Later, I shall give more examples of good taste and how I intend to learn from their good taste in my own website designs.