Top Web Design Trends Of 1989

By on 07/12/2016

Welcome to the internet, perhaps the most extensive record of human subculture and history that has ever existed. With every era that has passed, web design trends have evolved, and no year was more exciting than 1989. In those days, designers weren’t bogged down by annoying limitations like tables and browsers. Nope. They had the freedom of the wide-open screen, with amazing design tools like “the Tab key” to help them reach heights of design excellence that no designer has surpassed since. Not that many people actually had the internet in those days, of course, but if they had, they’d have been knocked off their feet by the sheer brilliance of the web design trends that signaled the end of the Eighties… or perhaps not.

wikipedia old browser

Web Design Palettes to Die For

You could say the web design trends of 1989 were entirely based on palette given that there were no other design elements to play with at the time. Your color choices were:

  1. Black
  2. Green

Of course, you could also mix it up by creating a complex color palette consisting of both black and green, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That might be a little too complicated for the web’s first year on earth.

Pixels: The Height of Sophistication

If you were the type of web designer who focused on form rather than palette, the internet had more than enough web design trends through which you could express your creativity. The web revolutionized the way the world approached one design element in particular: the pixel. Monochromatic text made from blocks were the only web design trends you really had to work with. The internet was little more than a basic text document. Left alignment was your only option, although you could, at least, tabulate your entries.

old website left aligned


HTML existed from the beginning of web design trends. It just wasn’t always the overachiever it is today. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, used HTML to link documents so that academics could easily find information. Basic buttons were used for navigation. As dull as they might have looked back then, they represented the very concept that birthed the term ‘world wide web’. Instead of a hierarchical organization structure, a web of links was used instead, and so the WWW was born.

Graphics Are Optional

In 1989, Berners-Lee put together a proposal that suggested a few web design trends to plan for. In it, he called the addition of graphics an ‘optional extra’, an idea worth throwing away until the internet became useful for those outside his own community of CERN. The web was, after all, a network of information. Who needed it to look pretty?

Of course, most people had nothing more than an 8 bit computer and a 300 baud modem, so power graphics were best reserved for computing that mattered: games had evolved dramatically before the web was even a concept worth thinking about, and in 1989, they already had colored graphics. Maybe one day web design trends would incorporate that much sophistication.

pacman graphics

Information is Power

Not all of 1989’s web design trends were embarrassingly naïve. Berners-Lee’s first written ambition for the internet had one sparkling jewel of a concept that has never lost importance even today: “Information exchange is […] more important than secrecy.” The issue of copyright enforcement had come up, and for the first time in publishing history, access to information was prioritized over copyrights. The age of big data was more than a decade away, but it was already a twinkle in the eye of its maker in 1989.  The world would never be the same again.

What are the best web design trends you have seen since?  Have any good links to examples, please share in the comments!

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