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Flashback to 1995, the year the Internet became commercialized. Until this point, only major government and academic institutions had been using the Internet Protocol Suite we now hail as “The Internet.” Websites went up quickly with horrible alignment, barely any font choices and a series of gaudy rainbow gradients. But it was new and the masses loved it, and HOW’s presence online was no exception to some of those atrocities. Let’s take a journey back to an age when pages took several minutes to load and watch howdesign.com develop into the site we know today.
HOWDesign.com launched in 1996 under the name HOW NOW. Like most major websites of that time, it had a welcome page inviting readers in with the common phrase “Click here to enter.” This unfortunate tactic was one more obstacle between the user and the content. The page even had links to www.netscape.com and www.microsoft.com in order to download Netscape 2.01 or IE 3.0.
Once a user clicked to enter the homepage, they saw the above screen. The array of bright colors was another unfortunate trend of the time, but it wouldn’t have been the 90s without it.
By 1999, we ditched the welcome page and revamped the entire design of the site. The decision was made to drop the clip art in favor of a more text-based design. Again, the color was hard to stomach.
With the fear of Y2K finally subsided, the HOW team got to work and made some more changes to the website in 2000, including a left alignment. With the exception of the navigation menu, we start to see the first attempts at a unified color scheme.
After an overhaul in 2003, the site was no longer titled “HOW NOW” but HOWDesign.com instead. The colors changed completely and some consistency began to develop. The same was true for the site’s interior pages, although you need to use a Windows ’95 style drop down menu to get there.
In 2006, the HOW Blog was launched as everyone became focused on Web 2.0 interactivity and participation. Surprisingly, the site remained unchanged for five more years until complete overhaul happened in 2008. By this time, web design itself had come such a long way. There was a shift from forcing the styles we used before the web to actually creating a new way of looking at things.
In 2010, we launched another redesign with new colors and elements. However, the biggest change of all was in the size. Designers finally stopped fearing the “fold” (where the site goes out of view and you need to scroll to see it) and began to load the area with content. They realized that people prefer scrolling up and down rather than aimlessly navigating through web pages. In fact, at this time in design there was a huge push to try and make everything on the site accessible in as few clicks as possible. Here’s a glimpse of what lived below the fold:
Finally, in early 2011 we switched to the site you see today. Not much has changed, but there are some important tweaks to the mechanics of the site that make it more user-friendly. It’s mostly been simplified, to make the page sleeker.
So there you have it. A look back through the years of HOWDesign.com as it grew into the website we know today. If you’re curious as to what your favorite websites looked like when the Internet was still just a baby, visit web.archive.org and use their Wayback Machine, it’s everything we loved about the .com generation without the bubble bursting.