Good Taste: A Few Corporate Websites

From what I have already mentioned, I want to make a website in the style and taste of the 1990s. However…

Tinglar_News

…I missed the mark.

This is not “Brutalist.”

This is not “historically accurate.”

This is embarrassing.

Looking at this, I think the reason why I ended up that way is because I did not exactly know why websites in the 1998‒2001 “sweet spot” had that style. At the time I was designing this website, I looked into old versions of websites that I knew.

Actually, there is a worthwhile example from this search.

Wizards_Old

There is plenty that I like here. The top menu is classy yet useful. The banner gives the message immediately and clearly. Also, the website’s use of color theory with the purple and yellow Pokémon is clever. The Type symbols fit the theme yet are appealing and attract attention to the menu items. I also like the drop shadows that the icons and banner have; they give that “sweet-spot Internet” look. The news items have those icons that, if not relevant to the news item, fit the theme at least. The “NEW” news icons actually have the “NEW” text cycle around the PokéBall, making an attention-grabbing, pleasing sight without being obtrusive.

I actually found other traits that I liked, but, once I found again and took a good look at the Web Design Museum, everything “clicked”. Even the other traits I liked were more clearly visible in the museum exhibits!

road-runner-2000

The color scheme takes that of the Road Runner character but is not afraid of expanding on the color palette when necessary. There are 2 menus here, each of which serve different purposes. The way that the two menus are connected with a curve gives a dynamic feel that, in the end, fits the “speedy” motif. The “go” button next to the zipcode textbox is also sweet. However, every link of importance (even the dial-up and DSL buttons) is accessible.

Plus, implementing a character known because of his ridiculous speed both suits the service and is in good taste.

kodak-2001

Honestly, there is some clutter here, which makes the webpage confusing. What I do like is the middle image that has a color that stands out from the other sections and is inviting in both expression and content. The shop@kodak logo and “Shop Worldwide” menu item are also in good taste.

There are actually more examples (from both the previous search and the museum) of good taste, but, after seeing all of the examples, I found that these are the examples that had the most impact to me.

In light of this knowledge, I drew up this prototype:

MainTinglarReference

This is just an exploratory design.

One thing that I did not want to change is the color scheme because my website has a “story” in which you are traveling to the beach. (The pink is a prototype-exclusive that represents a border.) A cute logo with the website name and tagline grace the sky. Riding the water are the menu items. There are 3 menus: one orients the new browser, another lists the games (complete with their icons), and another list other links of interest. At the top-left corner of the water is the search bar, making a more organic transition between the two menus. Below that are the language flags. The sand has the content. After a banner (that actually only “advertises” my games*), there is a big image that gives big news. After that image is a list of news items that have a relevant icons. A “New!” image animates itself to news items that are up to 3-weeks-old. After the news are some small link-buttons.

There are actually a few changes from the concept image that I would change, but this design is far better.


  • = Though the inspiration of putting a banner was in reference to the old Nickelodeon website, the idea of self-advertising banners came from Earthbound Central.

…though, now that I think about that, Nickelodeon’s banners were usually self-advertising… the banners at the old Cartoon Network website were also normally self-advertising, too.

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Good Taste in Websites

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:

Geo_Bad

…or this:

PokemonTCG_Bad

…or this:

Nostalgic_Bad

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:

Disney_Old

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…

Disney_Lite

…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?

Disney_New

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:

ChuChuRocket

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:

Playstation

Where is the fun in this?

Worse, if you try to go to the Official Game Site, you end up here:

Sega

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.

Which flags?

At the time I am writing this post, In the splash page of both my websites, the visitor would encounter 3 flags, each which represent a language: English, Spanish, and Esperanto.

Esperanto was obvious because the language got its own flag.

English was intuitive; because the grand majority of my dealings with the English-language world is in the United States, the leading English-speaking country in technology. Also, I live in Puerto Rico, a US territory, making the choice of the US flag more logical.

Spanish was the hardest because my main markets are both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Though the Dominican Republic’s exclusivity to the Spanish language might make its flag the better choice, I decided on Puerto Rico because I was born there and currently live there. I still wish I can find a way to appeal to the market in the Dominican Republic in a more specific matter, though.

The big issue, however, is Chinese, a language that I am currently practising. There are “simplified” and “traditional” versions of the written language.

The following countries used the simplified version: The People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Malaysia.

The following countries use the traditional version: The Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Macau.

You can probably think that the best thing would be to have China’s flag represent the simplified writing and Taiwan represent the traditional writing because they are the countries that have the biggest worldwide influence. The problem is that they tend to not be friendly with each other. They have opposing political and economical ideas, both countries actively opposing each other. Someone from China might see the Taiwanese flag and get too upset, or again, the other way around would occur.

Am I just baselessly assuming things, though?

I’ll have plenty of time that I could put on deciding which flags to use. I just want to get this thought out into the public and hopefully get good answers.