Keeping in theme with my last post, Transforming in the Digital Age, I think it’s interesting and entertaining to look back at early uses of the Internet and Web technologies and the changes over time – it provides comic relief and demonstrates how Web technology has evolved from user demands and feedback.

Today the Internet is about content and providing a valuable user experience, but it wasn’t always that way – remember silly “splash” homepages and animated flash sites with elevator music? Back in the day website functionality was not only trendy, it was an adventure. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of these hilarious out-of-date features. From the early days of the Web to Web 2.0, a list of the silliest and most obnoxious website features from the past:

#1: Online Guestbooks. I may be showing my age with this one, but I’ve never understood website guestbooks. I’ve seen them used in business sites and remember working with clients who felt their site was a failure because noone filled out the guestbook. Guestbooks were once a staple feature for early websites, often used to demonstrate the geographic reach of the Internet and that particular business page. Global was a big deal and having a user from Uzbekistan sign your guestbook was huge.


#2: Website Counter. We all remember seeing a counter and I still see them every now and then. I like to hit refresh 4 or 5 times to really throw things off. The “slot machine” style was my favorite.


#3: Pop-ups. These are still out there but thankfully minimized by pop-up blockers. I immediately think of a classic example where a user rebellion created market demand and software companies responded.


#4: Splash Pages/Flash Intro. With the development of Flash came the use of splash pages. Splash pages were more about demonstrating the abilities of the developer than anything else. I still can’t believe we used to make users wait 30 seconds before watching some meaningless animation just to get to the homepage.


#5: Flash Websites. Again, I think another example of showcasing a developer’s ego more than providing any value to the company or user. Flash websites are not only slow and bandwidth-intensive, but they’re also not search -engine friendly and not supported by Apple devices.


#6: Frames. Another website feature that we don’t see that often anymore – and for good reason. Rarely were they done right, often creating a “browser trap” that left the user with embedded frames within frames.


#7: Custom Mouse Pointers. From the stardust trail to a corporate logo, the custom mouse pointer probably gets the most obnoxious award from this list. Not only would it slow down a user’s computer, but it also made basic navigation of the site challenging. Not to mention cheese.

At one time, all these examples were core website features that clients demanded on a regular basis. Some of these features are still used today and some we hope never to see again. As technology advances and we transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, content and a smarter Web experience will continue to drive the website features of the future. And if we never have to click “skip intro” again, it will be worth it.

Mike Simon is the vice president of operations for MINDSCAPE at Hanon McKendry