Lessons learned from the very first website, launched in 1991

by | Sep 9, 2016 | Web Development | 0 comments

The world’s first website was launched on August 6, 1991. There wasn’t much fanfare. It’s nothing like the eye-catching, multi-media, consumer-focused websites we build today. Take a look at it here: https://info.cern.ch/. This basic page of text did, however, start a revolution. Every site today, from the tiniest small business webpage to the largest social network or online shopping site, exists today because of this simple code. I reviewed this 25-year-old page – as well as our first site built 20 years ago – and discovered there’s plenty to learn from these early websites.

  1. Websites should share valuable information

Sir Tim Berners-Lee built the first website as a place to share information. In fact, he used the term “Information Management” in his 1989 proposal for the World Wide Web. He thought the web could help prevent information loss in business and the scientific community. That is certainly true. As capabilities advanced, design became an important part of website creation. But it shouldn’t overtake the site’s function. First and foremost, websites need to include the information visitors want. Design should facilitate this sharing.

Looking at Checkerboard’s early sites, we’ve followed this advice from the beginning. I especially like how we defined ourselves as the “public relations firm of the future” way back in 1994.


  1. Websites should be user-friendly and easy to navigate

Berners-Lee’s first site has easy-to-spot links to an executive summary, frequently asked questions and help page. There’s no problem learning how to navigate the site or finding information. Today’s websites are more than just a page of text, but they still need to be easy to use for both the first-time visitors and regular browsers. That’s where thoughtful design comes in. User-friendliness and ease of use are the results of good design.

  1. Websites should be constantly evolving

The first website was only for Berners-Lee’s coworkers, but it wasn’t long before he made a significant change. Two weeks later the website was made available to everyone around the world. The internet was born.

Websites aren’t meant to stay the same. You shouldn’t just build it and forget it. They need regular attention to continue working for you. If you want more eyes on your website, there’s work to be done.   

Depending on your age, you may find looking at old websites nostalgic or laughable. We certainly chuckled at many of Checkerboard’s early designs. And then we were proud. Checkerboard got its start while some of our competitors were still in diapers. We outlasted hundreds of design firms after the dot.com bust. We don’t follow the herd, we lead it. Back in the early 90s, our company was busy helping clients, some completely perplexed by this new-fangled World Wide Web, reserve their domain names. That’s just us. We’re always striving for a better way to tell your story.

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