In the beginning the predecessors to modern HTML and CSS were simple, innocent creatures frolicking about in the landscape that was the nascent World Wide Web. Everyone learned to get along quite well and the results were simple yet effective web pages designed to display images, text, hyperlinks and supported some formatting. This was the Golden Age full of discovery, meaningful innovation, and practical applications.

Jump into the mid- to late-90s and you’ll notice a trend where designers were beginning to move away from minimal, text-centric presentations to increasingly image-heavy/plugin-based designs. This was a Dark Age marked by ugly designs, a total lack of thought given to information design, meaningless and nonstandard browser development, and generally poor decision-making on the part of the web designer, both personally and professionally.

The way I see it, the biggest offenders to intelligent Web Design in the late 90s were:

  • Frames & iframes
  • The bevel and drop shadow filters in Photoshop
  • Embedded media players (e.g. RealPlayer, early Windows Media Player)
  • Rollover Images
  • Inline styles
  • The FONT tag (deprecated in HTML 4 ~1997 yet was still popular)
  • Macromedia Flash\Shockwave (yeah, making your entire site in Flash is nice but WHY?)
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver (for teaching people bad, Bad, design habits)
  • Layout tables (the most obvious one)
  • Unoptimized graphics (file size-wise)
  • Scaling images using the width and height attributes in the img tag
  • Images scaled disproportionally
  • IE3 & 4

Feel free to contribute to the list by leaving a comment!