10 corporate sites from the 90s that your gram could've made

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The best thing about web design in the 90's - other than Netscape 2.0 badges, trailing mouse cursors, and blinking marquees - was that anyone could do it and look as professional as anyone else. Those were simpler times, when CSS and JavaScript were just born, we didn't have a hundred competing frameworks, and literally anyone could jump on the web and toss up a static page or ten.

If you have time to kill (and who doesn't these days?) check out the Wayback Machine for some of the best the 90's had to offer, including these quaint "corporate" sites that your gram could've made. Keep a sharp eye, and you might witness some of the elegant tools from a more civilized age.

Dell

I remember visiting Dell as a teen, configuring some outrageous machine with maxed out everything - a gig of RAM, a DVD/CD writer combo, 4 GB hdd (FOUR. GIGS.) - just to see what the total price would be, then dream about being able to buy it. I purchased my first flatscreen monitor from Dell.. it was an exciting day when I could dump my CRT monitor.

Check out Dell's site from 1996. The pastels! The liberal use of images that comprised 95% of the page! And what about those thick table borders!

Wait a sec... Those aren't table borders - they're one of the most ubiquitous tools in any 90's web designer's toolbelt, the 1x1 transparent dot.gif! With a single image stretched to any height or width, you could create borders and position elements around the screen. It's a mystery why we ever needed CSS.

<tr>
  <td bgcolor="#000000" width="11">
    <img src="http://www.dell.com/images/dot.gif" border="0" width="11" alt="">
  </td>
</tr>
<tr>
  <td bgcolor="#000000" colspan="5">
    <img src="http://www.dell.com/images/Dot.gif" width="600" height="11" border="0" alt=" ">
  </td>
</tr>

State Farm

Movin' on, check out State Farm's site from 1996. Love the background that looks like a manila folder viewed on an old tube TV. Love how they were upfront with visitors about the next update too. Ain't no one gonna bother firing up Adobe PageMill, updating the page, and uploading it with CuteFTP over the holidays. I'm sure everyone was waiting with bated breath.

AT&T

Next up, AT&T. You can't see it, but there was a ticker applet right above that center image. Tragically, it wasn't archived. Speaking of which, what is going on in that image? Is that a missing child and the other guy is sobbing? If you squint your eyes, it almost looks like the guy on the right is wearing blue pants and a black shirt, and the guy on the left is carrying him. Anyway.

What we've also got is our first example of an image map, where the time-constrained 90's web developer could slap a single image up (for the entire page if desired), then split it into dozens of clickable areas. Why did we ever need the rest of the HTML spec? Give me img, map, and area tags, and I'll take over the world.

<map name="navmap">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/investor/" coords="0,0,145,20" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/news/" coords="0,44,145,64" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/attlabs/" coords="0,64,145,84" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/att/" coords="0,84,145,104" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/directory/" coords="0,104,145,124" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/international/" coords="0,124,145,144" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/services/" coords="0,164,145,184" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/help/" coords="0,184,145,204" shape="rect" target="_top">
  <area href="/web/19961220023741/http://www.att.com/write/" coords="0,204,145,224" shape="rect" target="_top">
</map>

McDonald's

A feast for the eyes. Back in the mid 90's, McDonald's apparently let children design their website with Windows Paint and Broderbund Print Shop.

Don't click on the kids or the adults.. or anything! I tried to warn you...

Freaking Pennywise. (Help!)

Wendy's

Back in the 90s, Wendy's owner Dave was living in a, um, what does that look like to you? The mansion from Clue maybe. Doesn't look like any Wendy's I've ever seen, but apparently those square patties made him enough money to paint his house gold.

Lots of pastels. I think it really was the Clue mansion, lol.

While you're at it, check out Burger King's too.. it's just a few images. I really want to know who M Piernick was!

<!-- Burger King updated M. Piernick -->
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML//EN">
<html>
  <head>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
    <meta name="description" content="The Official World Wide Web Site of Burger King Corporation, Miami, Florida.">
    <meta name="keywords" content="burger king, burger king corporation,whopper,have it your way,burger king kids club,get your burgers worth,burgers,king,miami">
    <meta name="FORMATTER" content="Microsoft FrontPage 2.0">
    <meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 2.0">
    <title>Welcome to the Official Home Page of Burger King Corporation</title>
  </head>

CVS

There's not too much to say about CVS, except the little old lady who designed all the other websites is featured in the corner. Note the sweet shadow effect that we'd use CSS for now. But that ain't CSS.

Yep, that's a 1024px wide x 1px tall gif. In the 90's, there was no problem that couldn't be solved with just one more gif. They were decades ahead of their time too, ready to handle any resolution that might ever be supported. I mean, not the actual content, but the background was all set.

Lowes

Lowe's knows how to design a website! They'd been on the web for a year, and had a contest to win a 27" color tv! WOW! (Goodwill won't even take those now... I tried a few years ago.)

Home(r) Depot

If you're a Home Depot fan and laughing at Lowe's pastel buttons, allow me to rain on your parade - HD wasn't any better. Homer?

Given how big the Simpsons were in the 90's, and how incompetent its lead character of the same name was, it seems like an odd choice.

MetLife

MetLife was celebrating a year online too, just like Lowe's. What an exciting time to be online, celebrating the simple fact that we managed to host a few static pages. Just amazing.

met life header (metheader.gif)

BlimpBlimp Banner

The White House

Last but not least, and not actually a corporation, The White House site is worth a peek. Love the background. It's actually easier on the eyes than most of the other stuff I found, but then they're not trying to grab your attention with bright colors and creepy clowns so they've got that going for them.

The 90's really were the golden era of web design.. as long as you're a bit liberal on your definitions of gold. And era. And design.

If you want to have a little fun too (the bar is low during a pandemic), check out the Fortune 500 and Wayback Machine sites, and see if you can find some goofy sites too. And if you find any good ones, let me know. We could all use a smile. 😂

Author

Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.


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