Whilst many things from the 90s may have made a comeback over the past few years (after all, that not-so-long-ago decade was actually childhood for nearly half of the population), web design does not fall into this category.
It can be quite entertaining to look back at some of the eye-burning websites that major brands started off with in the mid-90s, including huge names like Yahoo!, McDonald’s and even Google. But the problem is that some websites have never moved away from the design features that made 1990s websites so basic and ineffective in the first place.
“Retro” is not an excuse for any of these design faux-pas, so make sure you don’t have any of them on your site if you expect to be taken seriously.
1) Welcome screens
Back in the first years of the internet, home users tended to stay within the safe confines of their internet provider’s homepage portal. Sites like AOL were the main hub and most people were too scared to venture away. Entering a strange web address to visit an external site was scary (and extremely slow).
Perhaps this explains why many 90s website designers chose to add simple welcome screens, which would load relatively quickly (in a matter of minutes, if you were lucky!) to let users know they had found what they were looking for. The only downside of these welcome screens being they’re ugly and horrible and unnecessary they make your users want to close their browser. It’s been 20 years. Please remove them.
2) Aggressive backgrounds
Web designers in the 1990s loved to play around and show off with any small detail they could customise. It wasn’t about making things easy, or even attractive. Everything was built on the excitement factor of surfing the web, balanced against the need to cram all your site’s files into a very small amount of web space.
The result was often the use of repeated images, like tiled backgrounds that stretched on forever, clashing mercilessly with any text content that was unlucky enough to be slapped on top of them. Backgrounds should actually be as simple as possible to draw attention to your content.
3) Choice of fonts
Font fashions have changed over the years. Back in the day, options were very limited and none were particularly classy. Now, there is no longer an excuse. Fonts should be chosen because they look professional and are easy to read. If your website mixes and matches many different, hard-to-read fonts, it doesn’t just look trapped in the 90s, it looks a mess.
4) Out-of-date SEO techniques
This is a major point that could be actively harming your business. Gone are the days when search engine optimisation was as simple as stuffing loads of keywords onto your website so Google knew it was there. Now, search engines are highly sophisticated and they learned how to recognise these techniques about a decade ago. If you don’t remove them and use more natural SEO, you could be penalised in the rankings.
5) Too many distractions
In essence, what a modern website needs to be is clean, simple and easy to understand. A few impressive visuals can be great, but never at the expense of navigation or common sense. 1990s websites were usually cluttered with badges, banners and anything that flashed, moved, sang or otherwise put on a show for the audience. If you still have any of these left, please axe them immediately. Welcome to the 21st century!