Website design is kind of like fashion. Looking at website designs dating back to the onset of the Internet can be similar to looking at pictures of someone in the 70s wearing a leisure suit*, in the 80s wearing acid washed jeans, or in the early 90s rocking a pair of Zubas. When you encounter past images of yourself or others wearing these items, you probably feel a mix of nostalgia, combined with a little bit of embarrassment, along with awe at how far things have come.
(Is this your website? – Metaphorically speaking)
In the past, if we wanted to hide or burn photos (and the negatives) that showed our silly fashion choices, we could probably get rid of most of the evidence and prevent the potential embarrassment of blackmail from family members, etc. However, the Internet and the advancement of technology have changed everything, and this digital age we’re in has a ridiculously powerful memory. Now someone can take a picture of you, save it on their computer, email it to their friends, post it on Facebook, and put it in front of the eyes of millions of people. Potentially.
The same goes for websites. Did you know that there are records of old websites stored out there on the Internet? Even old sites from the past that have been removed can usually be tracked down. There’s a place you can go to, enter a website address, and see old versions of what appeared on that web address all the way back to the beginning of the Internet.
For example, here’s what the kstp.com website looked like ten years ago:
Good enough for its time, but kinda basic and not too exciting…
And here it is today:
The change is remarkable. Nicely, done KSTP.
In this magical Internet place, called the “Internet Archive Wayback Machine,” I entered the address for our website, esultants.com, and took a stroll down memory lane.
Ten years ago, I remember thinking that our site was awesome. But that old site just wouldn’t cut it today. Our new website is much more modern, fits our needs so much better, and is set up to continually evolve.
How can you view old versions of websites?
Simply go to archive.org, enter in your website address, and click the “Take Me Back” button.
You’ll be able to select from a variety of dates going back as far as anything has been posted on the website address you’ve entered.
Why is this useful?
I can think of a couple reasons:
1. It’s fun to look back at where we’ve come from - just like looking at those grade school pictures of yourself with braces and goofy clothes.
2. If you’re looking for information that you remember seeing on a website in the past, but can’t find it because the website is down or the information has been removed, there’s still hope. We’ve used it to help clients retrieve content that they couldn’t find but remembered had been on an old version of their site way back when.
Why keeping the design of your website fresh matters
Some companies we work with are just getting their very first website, but others have come to us after already having one or two redesigns looking to upgrade once again. Why? Because the fashion of the Internet changes. People can tell when a website has been designed 7 years ago. Or 14 years ago. Old design styles and techniques like scrolling marquees, flash introductions, and frames are like the Zubaz of the Internet. Some visitors are undoubtedly ready to make one of those “1997 called…” jokes when coming across them.
The Internet is a very fast-paced, constantly changing medium. The tools that are used to make websites have become more advanced, so designers have even more flexibility to make sites more attractive. The equipment that people use to look at websites has changed as well – monitors are wider and computers are faster, so websites too have gotten wider, and it’s easier to add more substantial content like video and high-resolution graphics.
As a result, older websites tend to stand out – and not in a particularly good way. Like Zubaz.
I have no way of predicting the future, but my guess is that this trend will continue. Four years from now there will likely be people who look at websites and say, “That site kinda looks like it was designed back in like, 2011.” Internet snobs? Maybe. But they’ll still have a point.
Addressing the need for future website design changes
There are ways to keep this pressure to change your website design at bay. Like some fashion choices, there are certain looks that do a better job of sustaining the test of time. By having a more “classic” looking website (AKA, the khakis and polo shirt of the Internet), you could help delay the need to change the look of your site. Also, if your website has one of our Content Management Systems integrated into it, it’s relatively easy to swap out a new “look and feel” years down the road, keeping the content and structure the same without having to start again from scratch.
We can help you find the right design for your website
We’ve helped many businesses bring their websites from the past to the future. If the design of your website is dated, we can help. Take a look at our website design services page and contact us for your free website consultation.
*Oh, and if there were a "leisure suit of the Internet," it would probably be this awesomely bad website for the movie Space Jam that somehow still exists (although it was pretty typical for website design back then).