marketing + web
We’re kind of obsessed with vintage ads around here. Especially the hideously un-PC ones, because really? And how did they get that picture of me? I digress. Instead of focusing on ads, I’ve decided to do some Nancy Drew-style investigative research and show how Atlanta’s most successful businesses made their debuts on what was, at one time, seriously referred to as “the net.”
Yes we know: there is no such thing as a vintage website. If the world wide web were a person, she wouldn’t even be old enough to drink. Keep reading, and you’ll understand why I’m using “vintage” for 10-20 year old designs. I’d say it’s a feeling.
My favorite thing about this Home Depot site was the fact that those light switches continuously switched on and off, completely on their own and completely randomly. And oh, how I love the use of that sweet peg board as a background. “Homer” the Home Depot mascot was there to guide you, dear user, to important and helpful content like “Investment Information,” “The Home Depot” and “The Main Screen.” These menus weren’t exactly intuitive, but Home Depot was learning UX as they went, so we don’t fault them because there really were no standards. We also give them points for being adventurous and for branding boldly. If you’re interested, here’s their 1996 version.
Which links to this:
It looks like the Coca-Cola Company left their website in the hands of their creative team, who were witty copywriters and imaginative developers. Their site was not brimming with investor information or even product information–it was a branding tool. Coke was smart enough to keep their brand out of the hands of “the suits” (or at least seem like they were doing so). Their initial content was young, just like their internet audience. Later incarnations of their site were totally badical, but Coke has always done a solid job of relating to people. As a side note–it’s kind of jarring to see a Coke property that barely uses any red at all. Boy oh boy, did people love manila colored websites in the 90s.
It’s probably not fair to compare a 1998 site to a 1996 site, but this is the earliest iteration I could find of DeltaAirlines.com. The site is readable, has a solid navigation system and offers a lot of features. Delta were leaders in on-line booking, but I couldn’t find a screen capture that ever worked, so I’m not sure exactly when this site was actually online. Historically, though, Delta knocks it out of the park. Their current site is gorgeous, intuitive and useful. Looking back to some of their older sites, it seems like they’ve always had sophisticated taste and an appreciation for how a user will interact. As far as competition goes, I doubt that any modern airline can claim a prettier site than Delta. I’m a sucker for elegance and thoughtful UI/UX.
This convoluted board game is a menu that contains titles like “Buy a New Family Computer.” and “Invent New Widget…Strike it Rich!” Users could play and explore, but the real meat was in the footer where you had options like “PC Banking” (sorry Macs) and “Branch/ATM Locator.” SunTrust was trying something that, at the time, was cutting edge. It seems obvious that they were thinking about their site as a tool to help customers bank easier, and they seemed keen on the idea of online banking way back in 1996, when even check cards seemed risky to some people (how will I know if I’m about to over draft if I don’t have my check book register?!). Bravo to SunTrust.
While the design seems kind of hideous, at the time, this was pretty clean. There were no spinning .gifs or blinking headlines. They provided real services to internet users instead of being just being an on-line brochure. You could find driving instructions, employment opportunities, and drop off locations. Their modern site is incredibly complex in its functionality, but is still easy to navigate. I imagine that part of the reason that UPS took such a huge part of the market share from the United States Postal Services steams from the fact that UPS has been thinking about making life easy on their clients through the use of technology from very early on.
And that’s the point–these companies are successful because they understand that technology is important. It should be prioritized and invested. SunTrust was dreaming up online banking, Coke was connecting audiences to their audiences in an innovative way, Delta was doing online booking, Home Depot was there to help, and UPS was making other systems seem obsolete, right from the beginning. Technology is only getting more amazing and well-imagined and powerful, and every business has the opportunity to use it brilliantly.
On top of that, we can all be grateful that the fonts are getting better too.
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