Internet Evolution: 5 Fascinating Ways Web Design Has Changed Since The 90s


Did you know the Heaven’s Gate cult was on the cutting edge of web design in the 90s? Read on to learn all about this and four other fascinating ways web design has grown and evolved since the early days of the internet. 

1. Web design moved away from the Heaven’s Gate aesthetic

When you hire a UX design agency or freelancer to help you perfect your app or website, it probably doesn’t occur to you to check into their cultish affiliations. Indeed, such an extensive background check may even constitute a breach of privacy. However, there are a handful of 90s business owners (including one who ran a Christian book store) who probably wish they’d done just such a background check before hiring Higher Source for their web design.   

Heaven’s Gate operated the Higher Source to help fund their penchant for Nike shoes and their journey to the “Next Level.” In a very space-cultish way, the website design was all about black backgrounds and neon text, plus all the fonts and clipart you remember from early versions of MS Word. Interestingly, we have (to some extent) circled back to the black background vibe with the recent rise of dark mode on many websites and apps. 

2. No more bland walls of text

In the 2020s, if you see a white background with a wall of text and hyperlinks, you know something’s going terribly wrong with your internet connection. However, in the 90s, this was precisely what you’d expect to see. Indeed, you’d be thrilled to see anything at all after having waited anxiously through the lengthy (and rather noisy) process of establishing your dial-up connection

Of course, a lot of improvements occurred during the 90s. For example, Flash came out in 1996, opening up far more possibilities for web designers than was previously possible with basic HTML. In many ways, this marked the birth of user-focused web design. 

3. A proliferation of programming languages

While programming languages predated the internet by a few decades, it’s also true that the internet was a catalyst for the development of many more. Nowadays, there are so many programming languages in existence that no two sources can even agree on a precise number. As in the 90s, HTML remains the foundational language for web design. However, most modern developers also learn CSS (or CSS3), JavaScript, Python, C++, and a number of others. 

4. From flat to 3D to flat again

As our ability to create more complex designs grew, developers experimented with all sorts of design aesthetics. You may remember the late 90s phase of having all buttons, windows, and features look 3D, with beveled edges and drop shadows to create the full effect. 

Thankfully, in the early 2010s, this look was replaced by a more minimalistic approach. Flat design took off with its easy-to-scan 2D look creating a more enjoyable user experience. Though we’re more than a decade on from the rise of this trend, it’s still going strong, reflecting just how influential the user experience has become.  

5. Embracing minimalism

This minimalist ideal extended into every aspect of web design. The 90s look was all about cramming as much as you could into a page. Think flashing gifs, scrolling marquees, visitor counters, embedded audio clips, guest books, and the like. Thankfully, we left all that clutter behind. 

While much has changed since the 90s, it’s always worth circling back to see not just how far we’ve come but if there’s anything worth recapturing from the past. Fans of dark mode will certainly agree!

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