Web design has come a long way since the start of the century. Happily, for the good of our eyes, layouts have become less cluttered, graphics have improved, and of course, technological advances mean that sites load a lot faster. But some legendary websites didn't make it to see these changes. They were lost along the way, leaving us to only imagine what they might look like today.
One project is doing just that, looking at sites of the past, from LimeWire to Ask Jeeves and giving them a modern aesthetic. The facelifts of four iconic sites show how web design has evolved since the days of dial-up, and also how certain norms have been established in UI design (see our pick of the best UI design tools if you're looking to expand your own toolkit).
The hosting site Fasthosts (opens in new tab) began the project as a tribute to cultural icons that "played a valuable role in our lives at some point, and whose names cause a wave of nostalgia and fond memories to wash over us." It's made over four sites of the past, and first up is Limewire.
A free peer-to-peer file-sharing client that capitalised on the demise of Napster, Limewire was basically just a download screen. That leaves a lot of room for improvement to create a fuller user experience. The proposed facelift introduces a darker background to help the bright album covers pop against the brand green and a more minimalist UI to make browsing easier. This looks like something that aims to give Spotify a run for its money.
Bebo was one of the first of a new generation of ‘micro-blogging’ social media sites. It let you post to all your followers at once and see updates in a single feed view. It went bankrupt in 2013 and an attempt to revive the site in 2021 failed to achieve success.
The makeover above keeps the site's recognisable dark look but makes things sleeker and a whole lot more Twitter-like. The search bar functionality is still there, but filters are added to allow customisation of the feed. Side functions like ‘games’ and ‘luvs’ have been dropped to a more mature product.
Now, strictly speaking Myspace is not dead. The site still exists, and it looks very different to what it did back in the day, foregrounding music news content. Fasthosts has focused on the original community ethos, foregrounding new connections and hashtags to follow community discussions.
It might look more like LinkedIn than a music-oriented social media platform, but it's certainly sleeker than Myspace's original design. It also adds a shop, reflecting the fact that social media sites need to increase monetisation (think Twitter Blue), but we're not sure what exactly this shop would sell.
The search engine Ask Jeeves was the epitome of 90s web design, throwing everything it had at the page. The 2023 revamp sees it stripped back to a Google-like minimalism, improving its usability. "Users want something minimalist, clean, and easy-to-use," Fasthosts notes. The stripped-back approach extends to the logo, which reduces Jeeves to just a bowtie and a portion of a suit. We have a fond nostalgia for the original Ask Jeeves site, but I wonder if a cleaner approach might have helped it survive the battle of the search engines.