I give a seminar Traditions and Revolutions in Web Design this semester. On the first day we made our first pages by modifying the code of Univ.-Prof.i.R. Dr. sc. nat.Werner Römisch’s page. In spirit of 1993 and default tags.
His page is one of the brightest examples in my essay Prof.Dr.Style, that can be helpful if you want to know how did people make pages in 1993 and what did it mean for them and for the evolution of web design.
I’ve also suggested to the students to embed a Youtube video into their pages. There was no Youtube in 1993 of course, even EMBED tag was not invented yet, but I think pulling parts of a giant system into your modest page is a nice feeling and a healthy exercise.
Another historically incorrect element on this page is a web ring. That phenomenon appeared a year or two later, but it is important to get a feeling of linking to each other. You can check the webring and individual pages starting at https://webspace.merz-akademie.de/~olia.lialina/
Next time we moved to “1995”, or pure “html energy”. With pure I mean no CSS, no separation of content and presentation; holistic, convival HTML only.
Still surprised how much you can achieve with “table”,”hr”,”font”, …, and “marquee”!
Next (chrono)logical step was to dive into One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age archive and to dive out with a page to someone or something dear to you in the style and techniques usually reffered as “Geocities 1996”
And only after we turned to CSS.
To finish our excursus in pre-history or real history of web design, we explored the moment in the early 2000’s when CSS started to to take over the field. For me this turn is forever connected with CSS Zen Garden, the web site that glorified unlimited possibilities CSS could bring. The website itself was growing through contributions of many web designers who applied different styles to the given HTML file. It’s really sad that only a few of those experiments are still online.
BTW, in 2004 British musician and webmaster Bruce Lawson made an intervention, by applying what he called “Geocities 1996” style to Zen Garden’s HTML. I say intervention, because though he followed the logic of HTML/CSS separation, the page looked like there was none. The page looked eclectic, which was also against the drive behind other styles exhibited on the server: coherent look. His blog post about it and the reactions he got is still online. Important to remember that it is this page that gave the name to the look and feel of the web before platformization and style unifications — “Geocities 1996”. If Lawson would have chosen “Tripod 1995” or “Angelfire 1997” for his homage, we might end up with other tropes.