My mom had one of those revolutionary mobile phones back in the day, an enormous gray brick that plugged into the cigarette lighter of her Ford Taurus. It. Was. Awesome. Nowadays, it’s a prop in comedy sketches, a throwback that makes us chuckle at ourselves and how easily cutting-edge becomes corny.
Internet aesthetics evolve constantly and dramatically. Web design when I was in high school is on another planet from most of the sexy stuff you see today, but every now and then I stumble on something hearkening back to the late '90s, and it warms my heart. Seriously. I love that there are entities that don't play by the sexy rules, either because it's too expensive or they sincerely enjoy DIY graphics or they're just so successful already that they don't give a damn about their digital presence. Therefore, the following sites are to be celebrated (and gently teased) for going against the grain.
Weekly Food Editor Brock Radke profiled local spot Lazy Joe's Fish and Chips recently, giving it props for its outstanding batter and selection of fresh seafood, from catfish to Ipswich clams. The food is no-nonsense, and so is the website. There's a lazy cartoon guy fishing with his dog, a speeding roadrunner doing deliveries and lots of photos of beautiful beaches that we're guessing connect to the idea that fish come from the beautiful water. The site is inviting, informative and functional, giving off the same charmingly homespun vibe as the restaurant.
My gay friends are mostly arbiters of style, so it was kind of a shock to click through the pages representing the Gay Chapel of Las Vegas. But the closer you look at the sweet illustrations (like a groom and groom and their wedding party, including Elvis, a Star Trek character and a showgirl), the more you appreciate "Las Vegas' only gay owned and operated ceremony chapel" and its quaint website. From live Internet ceremonies to themed experiences, they must be too busy innovating in other areas to worry about side nav versus top nav.
On really crappy days, when almost nothing can make me smile, this site does the trick. It's the digital incarnation of classic Vegas restaurant Hugo's Cellar, beloved by everyone for its steadfast—37 years in its current form, plus 10 as a rotisserie that opened with the Four Queens in 1966—elegance and delicious treatments of the finest cuts of meat and catches of the day (filet served on sizzling granite and poached lobster on ice, anyone?). With a painfully tiny photo featuring a waiter who might actually be young Patrick Swayze, a single-stemmed rose graphic and not much else, the layout looks like it was built at the dawn of the Internet, and probably was. But it has a menu PDF and a page for reservations (which are highly recommended). When you're a bona fide institution, who even needs a website?
Just for fun, let's venture outside of Las Vegas to two old-school sites dripping with bad design. Electric Daisy Carnival was kind enough to archive its sites since it began, including this gem from the year 2000. And all the way from 1996, here's the promo site for Michael Jordan's tour de force, Space Jam. You're welcome.
If you want to go crazy reveling in old sites, hit the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, where you can search billions of specimens dating back to Space Jam. You're welcome, again.