It was the late 90’s. Microsoft was just about to release Windows 98. Apple was struggling to keep pace. Emails were light magic to most. Google was yet to be a word in the dictionary. Newspapers were still a primary source of news. Social Media? What? And the internet was in it’s early stages of global domination. Fast-Forward 18 years and the shoe is on the other foot. The internet is everywhere, Google is the top search engine, Apple is the largest tech company and Windows just released ‘10’, its 7th software program update. In that time, the respective websites of the aforementioned companies changed in that time dramatically, just like their products.

To correspond with the continual globalisation of the internet, companies, especially the web based ones, had to continually update their own sites to maintain and increase connectivity with users and browsers. All companies grew sevenfold in this time to now be the major forces in the world. What is interesting about this big change is that it happened all in the space of roughly 20 years. Yet, despite the small span, the web has developed rapidly. Sites that were revolutionary in its time now look undeniably antiquated. Like any industry, it’s all about being amongst the cutting edge. Which is why it’s no surprise companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are now leading the way when you consider how much money and resources they pumped into their websites.

Let’s have a look at the changes to some of the world’s biggest and most popular websites.

#1 Microsoft

Microsoft looks way different now then circa 1998. To keep up to date with trends and users, it had to. Over this time, trends in design shifted as a way to reach audiences and connect with visitors to the site. The change below shows how websites have opted for a visually aesthetic and stimulating layout as a opposed to it’s previous text heavy site



Microsoft 1998


Microsoft Current Domain

#2 Apple

In terms of design, Apple has probably changed the game the most. Recognising the human appreciation of aesthetic, their sleek and sexy product designs are also present online. Apple respects the notion that humans respond well to design elements as well as easy to use interfaces probably better than anyone. Spearheaded by visionary, Steve Jobs, design was and is an integral component from Apple’s inception. This notion is evident in the transformation their website has experienced from 1998 to now.


Apple in 1998


Apple in the current day.

What does the future hold for Apple and it’s website? No doubt developments in their own technology may pave the way changes in the company’s online layout. They could possibly even transform the landscape of web design! Who knows, look what the did to portable music devices.

#3 Google

Who? What? When? Where? How? Yup, all of these basic questions we ask ourselves about whatever topic, is generally redirected to one place, Google. A few years into its life, Google became a word in the Oxford dictionary. Indicative enough of the power and spread this search engine had, even in the formative years of its existence. Google’s dominion has spread well into other areas of operations. Yet, while their prevalence into other developments and technologies has spread, their main focus has been on progressing their main site as it still remains their primary focus of business. The amazing thing about their search engine, is the fact it is a vortex to all of the web, and gifts them with indispensable insights and user data into how people respond to and navigate different web designs, all of which they can pool together to help with their own. That is why it is not surprise they were number 1 from day one, and still number 1 today.


Google 1998



Less text was and is a pretty prevalent change in the web overall. As people became more accustomed to the functions of pages, less links appeared, much like on Google. Web designers certainly began to understand that users were becoming more accustomed in interacting online and adapted to new layouts accordingly. What is certain for the future, is given Google’s exposure to user data and the wealth of talent they possess, they will always be out in front in all aspects of their relationship with the web.

#4 Facebook, The

Curious if anyone knew that they’d accepted someone special when the board of admissions at Harvard permitted Mark Zuckerberg’s application. Lo and behold, 13 years post college days, 46 billion dollars later, his company Facebook has changed the way the world communicates. Considered a prodigy in his early days, Zuckerberg has always had a fixated focus on the architecture of content, to optimise usability and user experience. Facebook has experienced continually balanced changes in its front end development and design. The geniuses now occupying the Facebook headquarters are always working to implement new system and layout updates based on the collation of data they collect from users. Data which highlights how users interact and navigate with their service. Amazing that all this began from the comfort of a humble dorm room.


Web Changes in Facebook Over 13 years


Facebook currently

User account layouts have also changed significantly over time, as more and more members utilise different applications and subsidiary channels. Improvements to user experience were and are necessary to ensure retention especially when Facebook began to balloon in members throughout the late 00’s. Interesting to see what changes and developments Facebook apply, luckily they have a proven prodigy steering the ship. Like all things, the web is an evolving landscape. What all 4 of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have done is put user experience at the forefront, largely the reason for the sustained and growing success. Trends are hard to predict and determine on the internet, but no doubt these big 4 conglomerates have equally big visions for their futures. As the world becomes more immersed in the internet, there is no doubt there will be an even bigger merge between everyday life and the internet. It’s no surprise a number of these sites listed feature in our article Major Web Designs That Won.