How to Design Your Site Like It's 1999

The internet today is filled with tutorials on how to design your web site ‘web 2.0’ style. I thought it would be fun to teach you some of the horrible design trends from the past. So I invite you to return to a simpler time, a time when people still listened to TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ (not me) and terrorism was something that only happened in Steven Seagal movies. Here’s how to design your website like it’s 1999.

Use a lot of Stock Photography

This is a website convention that never seems to go out of style. The idea seems to be that a picture of a well-dressed business person with a shit eating grin on their face will make your company look more professional. Instead, it ends up making your site look like a creepy K-mart ad.



Put a black outline around everything

Nothing says ‘think outside the box’ like putting everything inside a box. You might be tempted to forgo the black lines in favor of a cleaner and less claustrophobic design, but this would be a mistake. After all, if a site like apple is an example of ‘clean’, a bunch of black lines must make you feel dirty. And Dirty Dancing was a hit 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze.

This is me in my prison of shame

Use hard lines and razor sharp edges

Using sharp edges gives the impression that you are on the cutting edge, get it? There are many times when using sharp edges would be appropriate. For me personally, it looks rather aggressive and uninviting. This is out of sync with the current internet zeitgeist (yes, i just wanted to say zeitgeist), which welcomes users to participate rather than just take in information passively. Many web sites of today use softer, rounded edges, or in some cases, no edges at all. For a comparison of these two styles, take a look at the pleasant British Petroleum logo, which, while somewhat pointy, still conveys a sense of softness. Then look at the almost universally reviled London 2012 olympic logo, which resembles two people made out of broken shards of glass attempting to copulate.



Use tiny pixel text

People used to think it was really cool to use a lot of tiny, unreadable text. In fact, some people still do. But now that the internet is no longer a secret club for nerds, we have to take into account that people may want to read our website without having to squint. In theory, the more people that can read your website, the more cash will line your pockets. Unfortunately this also means grandma will have an easier time sending you stupid email forwards with pictures of rainbows and children and kittens. In the modern age of search engines and spam filters, having tiny text might even get you labeled as spam

Tiny fonts


Do everything Jakob Nielsen says

Jakob Nielsen is like the nosy old lady who lives next door, who loves to tell you how to raise your children. She never had any children of her own, but that doesn’t matter, because she’s always had good ideas. You quietly smile and nod while she spits in your ear, all the while secretly wishing she would just die already. If Jakob Nielsen’s disciples had their way, every website would look like this.

Flash animations, spinning 3d logos, stupid banners with flashing text.

No website could possibly be more guilty of this than 2advanced. A modern day version of this would be the video spokesperson, which reminds me of the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Mike TV is shrunk and put inside the television, only now Mike TV is forced to extol the virtues of telecommunications services.


That’s all, for now. If you are still doing any of these things, please stop it, now. Tune in next week and I may teach you how to add a flaming skull to your angelfire webpage.

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action
Close search overlay