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What happened to trailing mouse pointers?


What happened to trailing mouse pointers?

In the early days of the internet, it used to be common to find websites that changed your pointer to some sort of novelty item. Often, you would find that rather than a single arrow, you were carrying a trail of arrows across the screen.

Other websites might have used hilarious gimmicks like a mouse pointer that looked like a banana. You would even get sites where a chain of letters would follow your cursor around, spelling out a message like ‘SIGN UP TODAY’ or the name of the website.

It’s still largely possible to make these changes to your own setting if you’re on a Windows device. You can go into ‘Settings’ in your Start menu, select ‘Ease of Access’ and then you’ll see the ‘Mouse pointer’ options, including changing the size and colour of the pointer. Going to ‘Additional mouse settings’ lets you change the speed of the cursor, and if you’re the one person in the world who actually liked having a pointer trail, you can click ‘Additional mouse options’ and then ‘Pointer options’ to relive this quirk of the 1990s.

Web designers loved to fiddle about with features in those days, simply because they could. Early websites were all about customisation and making them your own, but somewhere along the line, we realised that if we want people to visit our websites, we needed to make them something people want to visit. “Making it your own” was effectively just forcing your own preferences on everyone else.

On a thread I found on Reddit, a user comes up with an interesting theory that credits Facebook with tidying up the internet. They note that on the previous big social media site, Myspace, people would customise their profiles like crazy, including changing colour schemes and playing their favourite songs when you visited them. Facebook, on the other hand, stripped everything down and gave people a uniform format through which to share their posts, images and information about themselves. The result is a better and more standardised user experience.

That became even more the case as mobile internet grew, and gimmicky animations like scrolling text, dancing skeletons and other crazes of embryonic web design simply began to slow websites down and display poorly. Perhaps first for the chopping board were novelty pointers – completely redundant on smartphones, where we don’t use a mouse at all.

No doubt there are features we see on websites now that will seem like peculiarities in 10 or 20 years’ time. Web designers need to be responsive to these fast-moving trends, so if you’re worried that your website is being left in the past, or if you don’t have one at all, get in touch with the friendly Engage Web team today.

John Murray

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