Back To The Future: 15 Years Of Apple Web Design Seen Through A Time Machine [Feature]

Perfecting The Formula

Although Apple.com is treated by Cupertino like a product in its own right, it is also a service, and its purpose is to promote other Apple products and sell them to consumers. Since 1998, Apple has dedicated the bulk of its homepage to beautifully promoting its latest and greatest products, but the way in which Apple has done so has evolved over time.

Here’s a deeper look at how Apple.com has perfected each of the four major sections over the last 15 years with each one of its products over the last 15 years.

The Big Box

When Apple redesigned Apple.com back in 1998, the Big Box took up about half of the page. As time has progressed, the Big Box has only grown in size to accommodate the humongousness of importance of Apple’s latest products.

bigboxin2000

After moving the navigation bars to the top of the page, Apple expanded the size of the big box

bigbox2007

The Big Box in 2007 promoting OS X Leopard.

bigboxforiphone4S

The Big Box continues to grow for the iPhone 4S in 2011.

Hot News

Before Apple redesigned their website in 1998, their homepage used to be covered in news stories. You can still find Apple-related news through Apple.com, but over the last 15 years the Hot News section has diminished in importance. It’s gone from a highly visible object to being barely distinguishable from other links on Apple.com. Why? Probably because, back in the day, the only place to go for Apple news was Apple.com, where as now, sites like this one keep the Apple space well-covered.

hotnewsin2000

Apple changed the color of the Hot News bar in 2000 to match the Navigation Bar

hotnews2002

The Hot News bar became a little bit smaller in 2004.

hotnewschangein2006

In 2006, Apple started blending Hot News into the background.

hotnewsin2008

By 2008 you could barely notice the Hot News bar.

Small Promotion Boxes

The Small Promotion Boxes on Apple.com have always been used to promote an Apple product or event, but the look of the boxes has changed over the years. They’ve gone from three bland divided sections, to looking more like buttons on the page today.

categoryboxesin2001

The boxes were given definitive outlines in 2000.

smallerboxesin2007

In 2007, Apple added some gradients to the boxes them stand out more.
smallerboxesin2012

Some drop shadows added in 2012 made the Small Promotion boxes look like individual objects on the page.

Navigation Bars

During the redesign of 1998, the Navigation Bars originally appeared in the lower half of the page. Then in 2000, Apple moved them to the top of the page along with a redesigned look. From 2000 to 2002 Apple changed the color of the Apple icon a few times, then in 2007 it settled on a look that is still used on Apple.com today.

navigationbars2000

The Navigation Bars were moved to the top of the page in 2000.

navigationbar2001

A blue Apple icon appeared in 2001, the iReview tab was replaced by Mac OS X.

navigationbar2002

In 2002 Apple changed the Apple to a grey color, while Switch and .Mac made an appearance.

navigationbars2007

The Navigation Bar was transformed into a solid bar that was divided into Apple’s different product categories.

Conclusion

Even though Apple’s not considered a web-based company, their online strategy has been phenomenal over the past 15 years. Once Steve Jobs came back to Apple, a new web product was created, and has been used for 15 years and counting. Apple has made small incremental changes to Apple.com over the years, much in the same way its made small adjustments to the iMac, but the form has always remained the same. Only the function has improved.

By following the same formula it uses with hardware products, Apple’s been able to use their website as a tool to engage customers and promote products while keeping things consistent and easy-to-use. In essence, Apple.com is the perfect example of how Apple seeks perfection via small adjustments, rather than a constant schedule of revolutionary changes.

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About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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