In the early Wild West days of the internet, web design was more of an experiment than a practiced art.
CERN, The first website, went live in 1992. It was 100% text. Blue for the hypertexts were the only bit of color displayed. HTML created paragraph structure.
Websites did a 180-turn a few years later. Pixellated symbols and text spread out on painfully bright or highly textured backgrounds alongside awkwardly placed navigation bars.
From the mid 90s to the early 2000s, this was how you’d see many of the sites you stumbled on. These sites grew more complex with tables and animated gif buttons in later years. “Surfing the Web” was cool in the 90s, and the web was still novel enough for the retrospectively odd designs to be appreciated.
Thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you can see some old 90s websites (from notable companies!):
Collage of 90s eyesores
While Y2K was a 1999 fear that didn’t pan out to reality, many web businesses crashed with the largely unexpected dot-com crash of 2000. Web design didn’t stop there though. CMS (content management systems) began to grow in popularity.
The 2000s also gave rise to web 2.0, the user-centered world wide web where users generated content and had more interactivity with websites without having to code. Social media sites like MySpace grew in use.
The end of the 2000s and 2010s gave birth to mobile design. The iPhone was released in 2007 and highlighted the potential of accessing the web on your phone. Mobile-friendly alternatives to websites became standard.
Overall, websites gained a more responsive, refined, less cluttered look. Even complex websites like Amazon put more thought and research into the UX (User Experience). The future of web design is leading towards websites with AR / VR (Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality) functionality, where the web and daily life merge closer together.