Websites Through The Years:

Apple Inc is the maker of the worlds coolest computers, as I’m sure you already know. Their website has, for the last few years, been very innovative and has started several design trends. What has Apple’s website like in the past? Let’s find out, with a little help from the Wayback Machine. Ready? Let’s get started.

October 22, 1996

Not bad for ’96. The navigation is, unfortunately, an image map. The site is layed-out using tables, though you should note that that was virtually the only option back then.

May 9, 1998

Hey! Why don’t they have that cool Apple Logo in the header? Remember a picture is worth a thousand words….unless search engines are involved. The “Hello, Pro, Go, Whoa” nonsense is dumb, and there’s a lack of textual content. The thing is all images! Note that already Apple is starting to add a huge image at the top of the page. It’s a proven technique that works for them, and they still use it today.

January 6, 2001

Unfortunately there’s a bit of a gap here, as the Wayback Machine botched most of the entries between 1998 and 2001. This design is an early version of the one that I remember as “The Apple Design.” You can see the plastic tabs, the pinstripes behind them, and the signature “huge image” below the header.

February 2, 2002

The Apple logo on the first tab, as you can see, is blue (instead of red) now that Mac OS X is out. The tabs are a little shorter as well, looking a little less top-heavy. This design is better live; you can see the animated iMac GIF then…

February 3, 2005

Now this is how I remember the layout being (until their very recent redesign). The pinstriped header with its plastic tabs, the large frequently updated image above-the-fold, this is it. This is the design that set several huge design trends. Surely you’ve seen all the websites that have duplicated the plastic tabs.

January 2, 2007

Despite looking so similar to the previous design, I just had to put this one in. This is my favorite incarnation of the Apple website. Why? First of all: “The first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007.” That image alone does it. Then you have the products of the time period. You’ve got the new version iPod Shuffle, the iPod Nano, the MacBook/MacBook Pro, the iMac, the Mac Mini, the PowerMac, and then you have the iPhone announcement in a couple months. Then you have Leopard coming later in the year.

The Present

Whoa. Apple’s designers did a great job on this one. Everyone was copying the plastic tabs, and the old design was aging anyway. The brushed-metal navigation bar is the center point of the whole design. It stays consistent across the whole site, while the rest of the page changes. The page background is white on most of the pages, though it’s black on the main page to match the iPhone image (it may change when they swap images). This is probably the best of their designs. Want a deeper analysis of the current design?

  • V. Neely

    When it comes to the anniversary design, it looks like the Space Odyssey 2001 opening theme might not be uncalled for. ;)