Five bygone relics of web design we don’t miss

Posted on November 22, 2017

 

I’ve been designing websites for nearly 20 years now, and I’ve seen the industry change quite significantly over that time. I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the techniques website designers would use 20 years ago, or the gimmicks websites featured back then, that are no longer relevant in sites of today.

I should clarify – I didn’t do everything I’ve listed here myself, but they were all prevalent features in the late ‘90s.

1. ‘Print page’ links

I am so glad to see the back of these atrocities on websites. Websites were never intended to be printed, and yet some people thought having a ‘print page’ button on their website was somehow helpful to people visiting it. They often didn’t work properly, and didn’t even include a different CSS for print (that would strip out the images and formatting) – they just activated the print option and printed the page as it displayed.

Thankfully, we’ve moved on since then, and fewer people feel the need to print out pages of websites. I still cringe when I think of someone I used to work with who would print out every single email he received in order to read it, and would print out website designs in order to look at them. They’re not made for A4 paper!

2. ‘Bookmark this page’ links

Again, what was the point in these things? If someone wants to bookmark a page, they can do so from their browser. They don’t need a piece of JavaScript to do it for them. I’m certain the existence of ‘bookmark’ links didn’t, in any way, increase the likelihood of a page being bookmarked, yet still websites featured them.

3. Optimising websites for specific screen sizes

This is probably the biggest change over the last 20 years. In the old days, when I were a lad, we would design websites for a specific screen size – it used to be 800×600. That was the most popular screen size around the time, and websites were made for that size. Anyone who had a larger screen would see the website smaller, in the middle of the screen.

After that came 1024×768, which became the most popular around the turn of the millennium. Websites designed for this size would often feature a sidebar on the right filled with adverts and other ‘non critical’ information, just in case anyone was still using 800×600 resolution. They would then see the website with the right sidebar missing, unless they scrolled horizontally to see it.

Now, of course, screen sizes are largely irrelevant. Someone could be using the largest twin-screen setup, or they could be using the smallest smartphone. The website has to work on all of them, and resize accordingly. The days of designing websites for specific screen sizes are long gone.

4. ‘Website optimised for’ messages

Some website designers would make their websites for their favourite browser, and wouldn’t bother checking cross-browser compatibility. They would cover themselves by adding a message to the bottom of the website saying it’s been optimised for a particular browser, so you should switch to that browser in order to view the website.

Incredibly, I still see this from time to time, and not on old websites either. The last time I saw this was on Microsoft’s Action Pack members’ area, and it insisted you use Internet Explorer to view it. The website was actually made so that it would break in Firefox – now there’s an achievement of developing!

5. Text effects, such as blink and scroll

GAH! My eyes!!!

There were so many hideous JavaScript effects doing the rounds in the late ’90s that people just learning web design couldn’t leave them be. They existed, so they had to be used. Text would flash, change colour, increase in size and even move sideways across the screen. It was horrific, and reminded me a lot of Homer Simpson’s website ‘Mr X’, when he added every bit of animated clip art he could find.

Thankfully we’ve moved on from that now… well, most websites have.

I’m sure there are plenty more horrors from websites of old I could discuss, but I’ll leave you with a look at Homer’s webpage to show you what websites from the ‘90s were really like.

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