Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Old fads in webdesign

Looking back on how webdesign has changed over the years is interesting. Take for instance the following fads that have met their near-demise:

  1. Hit counters: Early on it was very common to have a hit counter on the start page of website, which increased by one every time the page was called in a browser. These were obviously rather non-sensical: Half the hits came from the developers themselves, bots were typically counted in indiscriminately, hits on deep links were missed, etc. (Admittedly, very early on there were no bots and the start page was often the entire site.) Notably, even one single user who made a page the start page in his browser could send the count up by several thousand hits per year—even if he immediately moved on. They still exist today, but I honestly cannot recall when I last saw one.

  2. Netscape brought the ability to use an image, possibly tiled, as the background or wall-paper of a webpage. While this could make the layout cheerier (previously, plain white was the standard; some even considered this a major USP for Netscape), it invariably lead many websites to use weirdly mustered images that made the text on the pages hard to read—or gave the readers a headache...

    This feature is still available (although, now, CSS based), but is only rarely abused in the same manner. Typically, designers are content with a single background color, or use a low number of colors to signify different types of content. (This website is an example of this, as is e.g. Wikipedia.)

  3. Frames was another innovation that took the Web with storm—and lead to a large number of hard-to-use webpages. The rationales included e.g. the ability to provide fix navigation menus, and reduced need of bandwidth. (The latter once an important issue.) The disadvantages, however, were severe, including problems bookmarking pages, the browser-builtin navigational mechanisms breaking, etc. Over time frames became rarer and rarer, and are today normally only used in special circumstances—say a website deliberately framing foreign content in an idiotic attempt to prevent users from leaving.

    (Note that inline frames are quite common nowadays. This, however, is only a similar concept, which is typically used for other purposes and which does not affect the user in an obvious way. Nevertheless, they too are somewhat controversial, considering potential security breaches of various kinds.)

Now, if only Flash were to join these idiocies...