Now permalinks are the norm, its unusual to lose anything you’ve written online. We are Funes. However, now CSS is also the norm, it is possible to lose the design of any given page. For example, the posts from my archives which announce a re-vamped site design have been rendered pretty meaningless after I re-re-designed the site earlier this year. Having said that, my latest, lazy template does attempt to retain some elements of the old design, on pages that previously carried it. A web designer with more coding skills than me should create a WordPress plugin that allows older posts to use a different template for older posts.
And of course, some websites no longer exist. Permalinks only work if you’ve remembered to pay your hosting invoice. Graphic Designer Jason Santa Maria has asked his readers to post examples of their early websites (via Kottke):
The things we write are published with a specific design and context. When we change that, we break the context and alter the original qualities of that piece of work… We haven’t had enough time to step back and see web design objectively. Will the work we’re doing have historical significance? Sure. Will it have historical significance in design? Probably.
Its definitely the case that web design “dates” just like conventional print graphic design. When I reviewed the Presidential websites earlier in the year, I noted how Barack Obama’s logo and website seemed to be very much of-the-moment. (Given his recent victory, perhaps we have a new predictor for elections: The candidate with the most modern website design wins?)
Anyway, my earliest experiments in HTML is illustrated below. The site was a scrapbook for the year I spent living in Zimbabwe (back when Robert Mugabe and Tony Blair were still friends). It carried a few cute and now totally outmoded innovations, such as a counter and a guestbook. It did include some early experiments in CSS, but the menus committed the double crime of being images, and utilising some italicised version of Comic Sans. Oh, the shame of it!
Another page that is still online is a failed pitch for a gallery installation. It is an example of Single Serving Site, before that phrase was coined.
I’ve added a gallery of a few more old sites below.