Article read time - 5 minutes

Through the years, ’90s web design sticks out like a sore thumb to most. People talk about and make fun of outdated design elements and poor UX/UI.

However, what people don’t realize is that web design during these formative years help establish what web design is now. And a lot of the practices designers are using when building websites come from things that happened years ago.

While not all of the design trends in the ’90s are applicable nowadays, there are those are everybody is still using to design attractive websites. Below are the four design principles from the ’90s that still persist to this day.

Go Over the Top with Typography

The font used on your website is a design in and of itself. The size, color, line height, and face of the font lend to the appeal of the design as a whole.

Therefore, instead of worrying about the design elements you should use on your website, consider focusing on typography.

Since fonts are the easiest to manipulate for designers and non-designers in the ’90s, fonts were a big deal back in the day. Downloading and using unique fonts that match your site’s brand and image were the norms. It was only in the 2000s when font choices on websites were limited to variations of sans serif and serif due to their legibility.

To be fair, fonts like the dreaded Comic Sans no longer appeal to today’s audience, But for what it’s worth, ’90s web design helped establish typography as an integral part of not only communicating your message to visitors but also your web design.

Rally

Image Source: Rally

Rally, a small digital agency in Salt Lake City, UT, puts typography front and center in their portfolio page. You won’t find images on the site, just text on a parallax-scrolling website. Despite the lack of visuals, it was able to communicate its message loud and clear through the use of typography.

Use Animation to Create an Experience

Back in the day, websites used Flash to load animation on the page. While Flash helps your website achieve a visual experience, it takes a lot of time to load on the screen. This won’t fly in today’s world where visitors have the attention span of a goldfish and loading speed is of utmost importance. Not only will a fast-loading site keep visitors from leaving, but it helps increase your keyword positions on SERP.

However, animation has been making a comeback among websites.  But instead of using Flash to create these elements, you can use HTML5, GIFs or cinemagraphs, and digital media. They provide the same level of visual presentation that Flash offers but with fewer bytes. That means these elements load on browsers in a matter of seconds.

At the same time, digital file organization makes it easier to find the content you want to display on your site to help improve user experience.

Prioritize Function with a Minimalist Web Design

Less is more.

This is what minimalism as a web design trend represents in the design community. Instead of making the most beautiful and functional design using as many elements as possible onto the page, you can achieve the same level of beauty by only using the most fundamental ones.

Minimalism was in vogue in the 90s for a different reason. To become a graphic designer back in the day, you need to know how to write code, period. And since resources on how to do coding were limited, only a handful was able to design good-looking web pages.

For non-coders who wanted to make websites, they had signed up to GeoCities and other free web hosting platforms to create their pages from scratch. Think of these platforms as the Wix and WordPress of today but with a higher learning curve.

As a result, the majority of its users were only to create simplistic and minimalistic web pages that contain GIFs, images, text, and links only.

Plus, there weren’t lots of web designers offering their skills as a service due to the lack of demand for an online presence in the ’90s. Now, you have tons of custom WordPress development services to choose from that can bring your design ideas to life. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the number of websites has exponentially grown through the years.

Number of Websites

 

Image Source: First Site Guide

Most people nowadays poke fun at ’90s design and how it no longer translates well in today’s web design landscape. However, it did provide a straightforward user experience that delivers what people want to see from the page.

Using this minimalist design principle, you now see lots of websites designed with function and efficiency in mind.

To be fair, minimalism was not innovation from the ’90s. However, the web design trends taking place during those times pave the way for what minimalism is right now.

Make Your Website Stand Out with Brutalism

While web design has become more accessible even for non-designers, it’s ironic that most websites look the same nowadays. The majority uses the same or identical CMS, themes and layouts, and add-ons. This isn’t a knock on current web design in general, but it’s much harder for them to stand out as a result.

Enter brutalism, the answer against the polished, professional, and homogenous design we see nowadays.

This design concept embraces the discomfort of its asymmetry as seen from the dispositioned images and text, radical font faces and sizes, and brazen colors, among others.

In other words, brutalism shows individuality and character and makes it stand out from the pack of faceless website designs. Instead of following a stringent website design checklist to ensure its quality, brutalism goes for the jugular with its raw and unfiltered design.

Going back to 90s design, brutalism was intentional just as much as it was a product of unrefined design skills. For the same context that gave birth to minimalism, brutalism was an outlandish approach to web design that focused on its intentional crudeness. Unlike minimalism, this design type embraces its fault and limitations to create something brash, loud, and at the same time, extraordinary.

Mary Gaudin

 

Image Source: Mary Gaudin

An example of a brutalist web design is by Mary Gaudin. As a photographer, she displays her work on her website in a non-linear fashion that perfectly captures her style.

That said, brutalism works best when catering to an alternative audience. The majority of online users will find this design too challenging for their taste. This reason is why most web designs have a similarity to them – familiarity helps them navigate the site much easier.

Conclusion

Using any of the ideas above is not simply a way of bringing your visitors back to the past where the approach to web design was different. If anything, the ideas from the ‘90s were a pivotal part of what design is now and continue to pave innovations to web design moving forward.

The good thing about web design is if none of the designs work, you can always use the website feedback you receive from your audience and make the necessary changes.

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