The Design Evolution of Popular Websites

By / Nov 9, 2009 / Inspiration
shares

It seems like only yesterday I was designing my first website. The year was 1997 and apparently I had an affinity to blue lightning bolts and animated gifs of my initials. When the project was complete, I had created the most beautiful design I’d ever seen. At least that’s what I believed at the time. Looking back at that design now is quite embarrassing. I’m sure most of us have been there, but what about popular websites today? Do you ever wonder how they looked in the early days?

In this article, we’re going to travel back in time and see how some of the most popular websites today looked in their beginning, and how their design has evolved through the years.

Click on the images for a larger view.

CNN

web design evolution
2000

web design evolution
2003

web design evolution
2008

web design evolution
2009

Apple

web design evolution
1998

web design evolution
2003

web design evolution
2008

web design evolution
2009

Digg

web design evolution
2004

web design evolution
2009

Nike

web design evolution
1996

web design evolution
2000

web design evolution
2009

Adobe

web design evolution
1996

web design evolution
2003

web design evolution
2009

Yahoo

web design evolution
2000

web design evolution
2004

web design evolution
2008

web design evolution
2009

ESPN

web design evolution
1999

web design evolution
2009

Amazon

web design evolution
2000

web design evolution
2009

Microsoft

web design evolution
2002

web design evolution
2009

Dell

web design evolution
1999

web design evolution
2003

web design evolution
2009

Starbucks

web design evolution
2001

web design evolution
2009

About the Author

Henry Jones is a web developer, designer, and entrepreneur with over 14 years of experience. He is the founder of WDL and ThemeTrust.

31 Comments

  1. Peach
    November 9, 2009

    Very nice list. Bring back some great memories. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  2. Cady
    November 9, 2009

    I LOVE THIS POST! I always think about what these sites used to look like, and it’s nice to see them archived like this. I specifically remember Apple’s sites. They were pretty awkward! (How about Google? What did Google used to look like?)

    Reply
  3. mark
    November 10, 2009

    Apple is superb even before.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Schiffer
    November 10, 2009

    Hahaha Yahoo! was a hot mess (still is)!

    Reply
  5. Chris
    November 10, 2009

    Apple and Amazon seemed to be on the ball even in the early days. Nike wasn’t too much of a slouch either.

    Reply
  6. Eric Hamby
    November 10, 2009

    Great post. Amazing how design will grow in just a few years. I remember my first design being just a simple text/image. Back then we thought it was so cool now it looks like a 8bit nightmare.

    Reply
  7. Nate
    November 10, 2009

    Definitely noticing how sites look more “Web 2.0″-ish, with gradients, integrated video, bigger navigation aids, less underlined links, more whitespace and attention to typography. Do you think there are sites which lead the pack in terms of design and usability? Who should we be watching?

    Reply
  8. Davor
    November 10, 2009

    Interesting how Apple always had excellent design even on the first screen. And it’s funny how Yahoo! always looked and still today – as a spam storage.
    It’s just my opinion of course.

    Reply
  9. Ovi Dogar
    November 10, 2009

    Wow…great post!

    Thanks for sharing! ;)

    Ovi Dogar
    AbsoluteCovers.com

    Reply
  10. Syed Balkhi
    November 10, 2009

    Apple Design has been outstanding through out.

    Reply
  11. Tom Ross
    November 10, 2009

    Great post. Apple’s design has been consistent, but I really like the new CNN design too!

    Reply
  12. New Hiker
    November 10, 2009

    CNN’s website has been on bookmarks for years. I’ve had to remove it since they launched the redesign of their page this month.

    More obtrusive and annoying ads and less usable/harder to find content.

    Reply
  13. designium
    November 10, 2009

    Nice search :D the most evolution came from image usage and from grid structure !! nice post

    Reply
  14. Design Informer
    November 10, 2009

    Cool! Apple is awesome!

    Reply
  15. Melody
    November 11, 2009

    Very cool to see the evolutions of these sites..

    I wish yahoo would stop changing their main page though, I use them for email and for my webhosting so I hate having to keep looking around for my most commonly used links..

    Reply
  16. Tutorial Lounge
    November 11, 2009

    memorable history in this beautiful post. thanks

    Reply
  17. Chris Spada
    November 11, 2009

    Great list, I would love to see these site switch back to their original version for a day, similar to how the NFL teams wear the vintage uniforms…. could be interesting

    Reply
  18. Nathan
    November 12, 2009

    This has been rewarding… thank you

    p.s.rich content

    Reply
  19. Jason
    November 12, 2009

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve had a couple projects that I got to redesign over the years. You’re right, at the time they seemed like the best thing I’d ever done. And again, I felt the same on the redesign. It’s great to see the evolution of your work.

    Reply
  20. TysonR.
    November 12, 2009

    The year was 2000, The world was suppose to end, My GF and I had been together 2 years, I only owned one mac, AND WEBSITES LOOKED HORRIBLE !
    Can you imagine if Yahoo looked like this now ?

    Reply
  21. Matt
    November 13, 2009

    Apple has always had a really distinct style. I think some other tech companies (i.e. Microsoft) has taken a page from the Apple design book. You can see that in some of their evolutions.

    Reply
  22. Some Guy
    November 16, 2009

    I miss the old days when websites were easy. Too much information these days. It’s a sad sight.

    Reply
  23. Deana Goldasich
    November 17, 2009

    Wow! A great ride through history. I have several evolutions I share in my keynotes, as well. These are fantastic, as well!

    Reply
  24. Ary Mega
    December 2, 2009

    Amazon, still rockin’ the same look with subtle new changes. Diggin’ it. But Craigslist is still ahead of the game with their Web 6.0 look — it’s just so handsome.

    Reply
  25. The Technology Blogger
    December 8, 2009

    An awesome list showing how some of the websites changed over the time, it would be great if you include google also..

    Reply
  26. Natalie Caro
    December 8, 2009

    Great to watch, makes me want to start capturing screen shots of our website. So we don’t forget our humble beginnings! It’s like looking back at old baby pics of your children and watching them grow up. Thanks for the idea!

    Reply
  27. tyler
    December 8, 2009

    looks like the way back machine from archive.org

    Reply
  28. vijay
    December 9, 2009

    Really I miss the old days when websites were easy. but now these days such kind of article hepls to give some efforts to make it easilly.
    thanks

    Reply
  29. Jannis Gerlinger
    December 9, 2009

    so damn great!

    Reply
  30. vijay
    December 12, 2009

    impressive, such a great article…..

    Reply
  31. No.1 Web Design
    December 13, 2009

    Great wonderful collection,thanks for share

    Reply

Leave a Reply