Throwback: Adam Janos — of A&E and The Wall Street Journal — contracted me to design “a very ugly old 1990s website on a modern blogging platform with mobile support.” He saw the 'classic' version of my own site, and for reasons I cannot fathom, he wanted something similar: gaudy wallpaper, animated .gifs, distracting colors.
The 'classic' version of Adam's site is so hideous that I hesitate to provide a link. In the spirit of the 90s, you can access it by entering the Konami Code anywhere on this page.
Digging for Internet Gold
The hardest part about designing a fake, twenty-year old website is the search for authentic assets. The animated .gifs today are too high quality. I scoured the Wayback Machine drawing on defunct websites for inspiration — because Geocities in no longer active.
Since Mr Janos is a professional journalist, he was familiar with using Wordpress to craft online articles. I set up his domain and hosted it on a server with excellent Wordpress support. The back-end is as easy to use as any modern blogging platform.
Mr Janos provided me with one rule: "The website should look like it was made by a fifteen-year-old punk kid who cares more about ska music than anything else in the world."
Adam’s Ugly Website
I had a blast working with Mr Janos. His willingness to let me make the site look downright terrible was a refreshing break from the norm.
That said — Secret Public Diary is not nearly as ugly as is could be. A lot of those early internet sites had color schemes that were unreadable. I avoided doing the same. because I assume Mr Janos's site gets more hits than mine, and I didn't want to blind readers to his awesome content.