Your Old Crap Website | 90s Web Design

Dredging the internet archives 1996-2001 – Websites then and now

Iceland

Posted by monkeon on August 24, 2010

The meta tags for Iceland in 2000 were rather odd:

“artificial additives, artificial colours, artificial flavours, GM” – that sounds a bit too honest. I wonder if these non-green claims exactly cancel out their green claims, meaning that they are neither good nor bad for the environment.

Then, “Legendary Customer Service” – really?

Now for a quick spot the difference competition –

The top image is the site between Jan and May 2000, and the bottom one thereafter. Although the text has changed, the links are more or less the same apart from one – “Off your trolley”, which didn’t last long for some reason.

Now, Asda used to have a trolley based game which looked as if it would have been great fun –

Could Iceland have made a trolley-based game which is even better?

Sadly, like Store Wars, the game itself was not cached, which is a shame when it promised graphics like this…

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Swatch

Posted by monkeon on August 10, 2010

In 1997, Swatch must have had quite a poor brainstorming session because somehow the idea of a flashing gnome was chosen to welcome website visitors.

Except they didn’t call them gnomes. They called them “dwarves”, leading to some seemingly rather unusual comments about people with dwarfism such as:

The website also had an artist in residence, which at the time was Nam June Paik. He’d designed a watch which he called “Internet Love”. I’ll think of a sarcastic response to his waffle just as soon as I can translate it into sense.

Crikey, I wouldn’t want to go to the toilet at that speed.

Swatch were also dabbling in movie cash-ins, with a section of the site dedicated to the film The Fifth Element. The film was acclaimed for its visuals (and criticised for its weak everything else). Not to be outdone by the spectacle of the film, Swatch had made some state of the art animated gifs for the occasion…

They should show those at the IMAX.

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Chester Zoo

Posted by monkeon on August 2, 2010

The 2001 Chester Zoo website was unusual in that it had next to no interesting animals pictured on it.

I guess these snails might look like giant snails under a microscope

and this could probably pass as a giraffe if you squinted…

I suspect what might have happened was some confusion when the web designer was asked to incorporate a picture of two jaguars onto the homepage.

The guestbook of the site is particularly fine, with people from all over the world queuing up to spout nonsense…

Some other guestbook highlights:

"I like our zoo website. My best animals are orangeutangs. I am learing from my English text book. I like school sometimes and I like popcorn much. I am blonde and I am 11. My mum is 31 and my dad ist 34. They much enjoy things together. My grandma is dead and has bin for much times. I wish I will be ever looking at our zoo for real."

"What is John Prescott doing on our home page? Zoos should not be about politics. God help us if they are."

"One of the keepers, Andrew Lenihan , is a dead ringer for Freddy Mercury"

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Jamie Oliver

Posted by monkeon on July 26, 2010

Jamie’s 2000 site had perhaps the most informal welcome that I’ve ever seen on a website…

Easy! How’s it hanging?

He then continues the bizarre tone of the formality and structure of a letter combined with an over-friendliness of a holiday rep trying to sell you a timeshare. This, for example, is the sign off on the kids page…

Ultimately, it isn’t an overly awful site. There’s even a honey milkshake recipe that I plan to make in the hope of having a proustian flash-back to 2000 when I was at university and drank nothing but Jamie Oliver honey milkshakes. It was either that, or Orange Hooch, Mad Dog 20/20 and Metz, I can’t remember now.

That said, the one thing which is truly awful is the splash page.
It’s the most piss-poor animation. You can see it here.

To prove just how rubbish it is, I took a pen, some paper, my camera and made a stop motion version in 5 minutes flat.

Pucka.

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Gay Times

Posted by monkeon on July 19, 2010

In 1996, the pink pound obviously didn’t stretch too far, as the Gay Times website was shared with the lesbian magazine Diva.

I’m not sure if it was an attempt to fit in with 90s laddishness, but I suspect that they might nowadays treat their audience as more diverse than…

and

Fun on the site was limited to sliding block puzzles. For the ladies, a Gillian Anderson, and for the gentlemen a River Phoenix.

Though, it does seem slightly distasteful to say of someone who has died…

The “vote on our list of horny hunks” feature throws up some very unexpected people.

Some because they are just so 90s and forgotten, for example:

Justin from Elastica, Martin Rossiter, Tim Vincent and Egg from This Life.

Then there is one entry which, whilst he is many things, a “horny hunk” – really?

“Talk about a Red Wedge” Julian Clary, The British Protest Song Awards 1993.

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Lightwater Valley

Posted by monkeon on July 12, 2010

Lightwater Valley’s old website was a joy of Comic Sans, animated GIFs and ever changing page layouts. For example, nowadays you can’t even see their logo it is rendered so small. But in 1997 it was a fabulous flashing monstrosity…

The big mystery that greets us on the homepage is not why did Woman’s Own used to have a Top Theme Park award, but rather what on earth is this?

Another mystery is “Are they two Gladiators? I can’t quite tell with that low resolution, but if they are, what are they doing in the Toadhole?”

Sadly, neither of these images are ever contextualised and so must remain a mystery.

Each ride at the park is given its own page, unique layout and comparing then and now it is sad that they feel the need to market all the rides as high-octane excitement fests.

For example, now The Ladybird says….

Sounds exciting, yeah? But it just used to be slow and cute…

I don’t know if they’ve just increased the wattage and made it go faster.

One joy you can’t see in the above are the ‘animated’ ladybirds surrounding the page…

It’s interesting to see which features have either not survived or are no longer seen as big enough selling points to sport on their website.

This, for example, is no longer mentioned for some reason…

One thing that is still there is The Ultimate. This is their most famous roller-coaster. I’m not sure that this low-resolution image does it justice…

… which is why it is lucky that they have managed to perfectly capture the excitement in the form of an animated GIF.

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Madonna

Posted by monkeon on July 5, 2010

Madonna’s 2002 site featured two pop ups and some flash. I’m sure a rude joke is possible to me made from those ingredients, but I can’t think of one.

However, it’s not the website which is of interest here, but rather it’s quite how crap she was in getting the domain Madonna.com which is amusing.

Let’s start in 1996. What was on Madonna.com?

Scott used to paint pictures of the Madonna. Lots and lots of them.
Indeed, he still does, according to this article.

You’d think Madonna would have enough money to buy the domain off Scott. So 1998 should see the launch of Madonna’s site. Yes?

The images are unfortunately not in the internet archive, but the text reads “Madonna.com is not affilliated with the Catholic Church, Madonna Hospital, Madonna College or Madonna the singer.”

So, what is the site about:

In fairness, Madonna’s own career had been descending down that route for a while.

Now, hosting a porn site under a celebrity name can not last forever (dermotolearly.co.uk didn’t seem to be around long). So, what happened in 2000?

Ah, she’s got her lawyers involved. So, they’re going to have to sell the domain to Madonna in 2001. Right?

No, Madonna – if you want the domain so much, you must take it from the hands of the disabled.

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RSPB

Posted by monkeon on June 28, 2010

I measure the validity of a website for this blog by how close it comes to Homer Simpson’s first website…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7otDLzQCug

The RSPB’s website looks a pretty unlikely candidate at first, apart from the slightly surreal-looking tern that is flapping fast but going no-where, like it’s trapped in some sort of time vortex…

Nor do we find anything particularly strange on their webcams…

No, for the holy grail of web design, we must go into the kids section of the site, where we can see that we are getting close by this beauty…

We then must click “fun” and oh lordy me…

To see it in its full animated glory, click here.

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Rizla

Posted by monkeon on June 21, 2010

The new Rizla site contains the first “You need javascript and cookies turned on to view this site” warning I’ve seen on a new site in years, which is nicely retro in itself.

It also asks for your location before you can enter. I would have thought that they’d have a slightly higher rate of paranoiacs visiting their site than most, and so this might put many of them off entering. WHAT DO THEY WANT TO KNOW WHERE I LIVE FOR?

Meanwhile, in 1998, you were welcomed to their site with a spinning Rizla, which I could happily watch for hours (or seconds if I was sober)…

A very 90s thing was to list all the awards you have won…

Can you imagine how awful the web would be now if this trend had continued, what with all the SEO charlatans experts wanting to abuse the process and giving out awards to every site on the internet just to get a reciprocal link?

The interesting thing about Rizla’s marketing is seeing how close they will get to admitting that their target audience is more stoners than smokers?

Man, I tell you, if I was designing a website when stoned, I’d probably put in a caption competition where I couldn’t even tell what’s going on in the picture, let alone one that allows for people to skew what it is about with a funny caption…

…then, just before a white out, I’d probably mumble something about Elvis playing the Rizla game and how mind blowing it would be if he was to speak when the page loaded…

Talky Elvis Wav (via the internet archive)

“Am I Towely from South Park”?

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Lego

Posted by monkeon on June 13, 2010

I have a real soft spot for the old Lego site, since whereas the new one knows its market by having flashy tie-ins with Pixar and the like, the 1997 one is based around the stoic, reliable, dull Lego of my youth.

For example, the travelling exhibition is on the wonderfully dry subject of gates.

Not dinosaurs, aliens, or any of the other exciting things to get a child’s imagination going. Gates. Dull, practical gates.

Equally, whereas the games section of the new site involves defending castles and racing cars, the old site again has a relaxing minimalist approach. What is their exciting idea of a game?

The wonderful Build A Duck.

It’s just a shame that the prize is the bit-too-exciting Lego Submarine, rather than something more practical and in tune with the website, such as a Lego CD rack or Lego toilet roll holder.

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