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Web Design

Refactoring the worst. website. ever.

Want to see the ugliest website ever made? You’ll be surprised who designed it.

Want to see the ugliest website ever made? You’ll be surprised who designed it.

1995. The year I graduated from high school. The year I designed my first website.

It was called “The Happy Page”. Here’s what it looked like:

Screenshot of the Happy Page, version 1.
Screenshot of the Happy Page from 1995. The first website I ever made.

Before you laugh and forget about COVID-19 for a few minutes, keep in mind that I had just graduated from high school and had zero web design experience. I think Tim Berners-Lee might have only had a few years of experience ahead of me. And CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) hadn’t even been released yet.

There were no WYSIWYG editors. No WordPress. Nothing. If you wanted to create a website, you needed to write HTML from scratch.

The beauty of HTML is that it still works, even after almost a quarter of a century later. I still remember the tools I was using: Corel Draw and Windows Notepad. Not Notepad++, just plain Notepad.

What’s changed since 1995

Taking a peek into the code for the Happy Page, it’s amazing the code still works, even the silly marquee tag. However, things have radically changed since a quarter century ago.

This HTML code from 1995 is a plethora of worst web development practices.

Styling using CSS

In the olden days, I would style a webpage using HTML elements and attributes. Want to center some content? Use the center tag.

Shortly afterward, styling was handled by CSS, which does a much better job and allows developers to somewhat separate content structure from visual design. 

Semantic elements in HTML5

The other major development since 1995 was HTML5 semantic elements, which provide a way of telling computers and humans more about the content structure, rather than just having a mess. 

Wouldn’t it be fun to try replicating this website it it’s hideousness, but using the latest HTML and CSS technologies?

https://codepen.io/AaronTweeton/pen/bGVGdQv

So here’s the Happy Page, refactored to make it a little more compliant with today’s browsers.

As embarrassing as it is to look at now, the Happy Page was the first step in my career as a web developer.