October 22, 2020

The Design Evolution of Popular Websites

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

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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. Cady Reply

    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?)

  2. Eric Hamby Reply

    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.

  3. Nate Reply

    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?

  4. Davor Reply

    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.

  5. New Hiker Reply

    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.

  6. Melody Reply

    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..

  7. Jason Reply

    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.

  8. TysonR. Reply

    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 ?

  9. Matt Reply

    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.

  10. Ary Mega Reply

    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.

  11. Natalie Caro Reply

    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!

  12. vijay Reply

    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

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