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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Endangered GIFs

The web looked rather different 10–12 years ago. Nowadays, MySpace users valiantly do their best to keep eye-wateringly bad design alive, but back then every web designer was a novice exploring the possibilities. A combination of technical limitations, experimentation and incompetence led to site designs that were at best plain, at worst unusable.

Some of the classic images from back then are today rarely seen by most web users, so it’s time to act before they’re lost forever. Here’s my small contribution towards documenting and preserving a few of those once-proud GIFs:

Rainbow horizontal rules

Rainbow horizontal rule

Why settle for plain old grey bevelled rules when you could use every one of your display’s 256 colours? The animated variant was also popular.

Coloured balls

Blue ball Cyan ball Green ball Yellow ball Orange ball Red ball Magenta ball

These things were everywhere. York University still has a Coloured Balls page from 1995, created by a bloke I vaguely remember from my time there several years earlier.

Under construction

Under construction

Forget Stakhanov, this little bloke did a lot of digging.

Animated email

Animated @ symbol Animated letter Animated mailbox

In the mid-’90s you couldn’t use text links or contact forms. It was compulsory to have an animated GIF as your email link, and the more elaborate the better.

Nasty tiled backgrounds

Stars!More stars!

It may not be entirely true that in 1997 50% of web pages were about either Star Trek or Star Wars, but it seemed like it at times. Worse still were the grainy fractal textures that made text of any colour illegible.

The very first web page I ever created had tiled water ripples in the background, and the fact that it still won me some freelance work says an awful lot about the early days of web design.


To complement the gifs, don't forget the wonderful midi files that automatically started playing when you arrived at a site - as though it was some momentous occasion. Usually some ridiculous theme music from a film or dodgy rock song, something like 'Eye of the Tiger' played on a Bontempi keyboard.

Happy days...

Daniel, 23rd Apr, 9:54am

Gruesome MIDI files were definitely a big part of the early web experience! You can still find pages that greet you with 'Greensleeves' if you look hard enough.

Matt Round, 23rd Apr, 3:17pm

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