Last Updated 1 month by Emily Standley-Allard

Expert examines the humble beginnings of now powerhouse websites of these world famous companies.

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on UnSplash

In the early days of the internet, many now-prominent companies were taking their first steps into the digital world. Websites that are now polished and sophisticated started as simple, often rudimentary pages. 

Matthew Woodward from Search Logistics examines these early designs and offers insight into how these companies have evolved, noting the technological and design advancements that have shaped their online presence. 

Facebook

Facebook, originally known as ‘The Facebook’, launched in 2004 from a Harvard dorm room by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow students. Initially, it was a social network exclusively for Harvard students, and its early design reflected this niche focus.

The original login page from 2004 featured a simple design with a plain blue header and minimal graphics. The site used a lowercase sans-serif font, which remains a hallmark of Facebook’s branding. The use of ‘the Facebook’ was later dropped, a change famously dramatized in the film The Social Network.

This screencap from 2005 shows how Facebook originally branched out to be for college and high school students, one of its first expansions, before becoming the superpower it is today.

Over the years, Facebook’s design has evolved significantly. Today, the login page is streamlined and polished, reflecting nearly two decades of technological advancements and a shift towards a more professional and universal appeal. 

“Despite these changes, the core elements—such as the blue color scheme and user-friendly interface—have remained consistent, reinforcing Facebook’s brand identity,” notes Matthew. 

Screenshot of today’s Facebook website

Google

The original Google homepage featured a simple design with a basic search box and the now-iconic logo, complete with an exclamation mark. “This minimalist approach was revolutionary and played a crucial role in Google’s early success,” says Matthew. 


Screenshot from Wayback Machine

Today, Google’s homepage remains true to its roots, but with a clean and straightforward design.

The exclamation mark has been dropped, and the logo has transitioned to a modern, sans-serif font. The use of primary colors in the logo has become iconic, making Google instantly recognizable.

Features like ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ still exist, paying homage to its beginnings while the overall user experience has become more refined and intuitive.

Reddit

Reddit launched in 2005 as an aggregator site, branding itself as the ‘front page of the internet’. Its early design was functional, focusing on listing popular links and allowing users to upvote or downvote content.

The original Reddit homepage was simple, with a straightforward layout that emphasized functionality over aesthetics. The design featured basic colors and clear links to the most popular content of the day.


Wayback Machine

While the design of Reddit has become more streamlined and visually appealing over the years, its core functionality remains unchanged. Users can still upvote and downvote content, and the site continues to prioritize community-driven content aggregation. 

“One notable change is the color scheme, which shifted from the original blues to a distinctive orange, black, and white, setting Reddit apart from other major platforms like Facebook and Twitter,” notes Matthew. 

Screenshot of Reddit’s frontpage now

Amazon

Amazon began as a simple bookselling site in 1994, founded by Jeff Bezos. The company quickly expanded its offerings beyond books, venturing into other types of media and electronics.

By 1999, Amazon’s website had transformed into a collective online shop, a precursor to the comprehensive Amazon Marketplace launched in 2000.

The 1999 screencap of Amazon’s website shows a user-friendly design with tabs at the top of the page, making navigation straightforward and intuitive—an essential feature for early internet users.

This early focus on ease of use helped establish Amazon as a leader in e-commerce.

Screenshot of Amazon page from Wayback Machine

Today, Amazon is much more than an online bookstore. The website’s design is cleaner and more sophisticated, showcasing a wide range of services and products, including Prime Video, healthcare products, and groceries.

The Amazon logo has also evolved; the iconic yellow arrow that connects the ‘a’ to ‘z’ in Amazon was added in 2000, symbolizing the company’s ambition to sell everything from A to Z.

Screenshot of Amazon’s frontpage now

How Sellers Can Prepare for Amazon Prime Day 2024 (msn.com)

Adidas

One of the biggest sports retailers in the world, Adidas launched its first website in 1996. Even though Adidas had been around since the 1920s, it was one of the early adopters of making the switch to online retail.

Unlike many early websites, Adidas’s initial design was strikingly different, featuring a black background with white text with a major emphasis on graphics.

The 1996 Adidas website was innovative for its time, with graphics that appeared and disappeared, adding a sense of dimension and interactivity that was uncommon in the mid-’90s.

This design choice set Adidas apart, creating a memorable online experience.

Screenshot of Adidas website from Wayback Machine

Today, the Adidas website has evolved into a more conventional retail design. It is clean and straightforward, similar to many other online retailers, prioritizing ease of navigation and user experience.

“Despite lacking the unique ‘wow factor’ of the original, the modern design facilitates efficient online shopping and maintains brand consistency,” says Matthew. 

Screenshot of today’s Adidas website

A well-designed website is crucial for building brand identity and fostering user engagement. The early designs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Reddit, and Adidas were instrumental in establishing their brands and attracting initial users. 

“As these companies grew, their websites evolved to meet the changing needs and expectations of users, reinforcing their brand identities and ensuring continued engagement,” notes Matthew. “All of these websites of world famous companies have demonstrated and still demonstrate key factors in web design: simplicity, consistency, user-centric design, and adaptability”.

About Search Logistics

Search Logistics operates as an SEO Agency specializing in tailoring strategies to meet the specific needs, goals, and budget of each client. Boasting an elite team of SEO experts, the agency’s core mission centers around effectively increasing search traffic. Beyond client projects, the experts are actively engaged in mentoring at the UK’s top universities, delivering insights on international conference stages, and contributing to Matthew’s SEO blog. Prioritizing staying ahead of industry trends ensures clients receive the highest standard of service. Partnering with Search Logistics guarantees a dedicated team committed to maximizing online presence.

Follow me for more ways to grow your presence and your business massively online!