Web Design & Online Shopping: 20 Year Timewarp

Question: What was the first product ever securely sold over the Internet?

Answer: Sting’s compact disk, Ten Summoner’s Tales on 11th August 1994.1

Thanks to improved security measures across the net, by the mid 90s, shopping online got serious. First called e-tailing (short for electronic retailing), e-commerce has brought big brands into our homes via our desktops, tablets and mobiles for twenty years. And web design has evolved in marketing this multi-billion dollar industry.

But what did some of the first online stores look like? Well let’s take a look, shall we?


Pizza Hut was one of the very first companies to jump online, offering an online ordering portal. It’s first attempts in 1996 were, shall we say, a little drab?2

(Use the A/B scroller to compare.)

Pizza Hut: 1996 vs 2017

Web design and Pizza Hut, Then and Now.

Dell and Apple unsurprisingly got in early doors, too. Both started with sites that looked very much like the classified section of a local newspaper3,4.

Dell: 1996 vs 2017

Web design and Dell, Then and Now.

Apple: 1997 vs 2017

Web design and Apple, Then and Now.

Now renown for its innovation, Nike also started early but their first efforts were, well, elementary to say the least5.

Nike: 1998 vs 2017

Web design and  Nike, Then and Now.

Eek! That 1998 Nike site looks like a kid’s school project. A bad one.

By 2037, we may end up saying something similar about our websites today. I just hope that my website can make me coffee by then 🙂

On a more serious note, with the web design technology we have today, even small businesses can project the power of a big brand. And very few things can market your business like a good website.

If you’re looking to get into e-tailing (read: getting your own online shop going), have a look at some of the amazing features of our new e-com demo theme: Shoppe.


1 Attention Shopers: Internet is Open (New York Times)

2 Pizza Hut 1996 via the Wayback Machine

3 Dell 1996 via the Wayback Machine

4 Apple 1997 via the Wayback Machine

5 Nike 1998 via the Wayback Machine

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