Design, indago digital, Landing pages

The Top 20 Websites in Australia – How They Looked Then vs. Now

The look and feel of your website is a key consideration for aiding user experience in 2018.

It’s one of the cornerstones of building a strong and assured online presence. But as new technologies enter the fray, what we consider to be an acceptable standard of design can quickly translate as outdated or redundant. Not only because our tastes change but in the world of web design and digital marketing the technological capabilities dictate the trends.
Indago Digital experimented with this concept by reviewing Australia’s most popular websites at the dawn on the Internet. We wanted to compare the old-fashion designs with the updated versions we interact with today. Which sites have evolved beyond recognition? Which have shown little progress from an aesthetical perspective? Our project focused on analysing the top 20 websites in Australia* for web traffic, sourced from Similar Web and Alexa.

The images on the left are how the websites looked early on and those on the right are makeovers which you’ll be familiar with in 2018.

1. Google 2004 vs. Google 2018

Not much has changed on the surface for the world’s largest search engine. The search verticals (Images, News etc.) have shifted from home page to the SERPs as part of a declutter mission, as with text links below the search bar. The main upgrade to speak of is the Google Doodle, commissioned in-house in the year 2000 and by pure coincidence has grown to approximately 2,000 published Doodles online.

2. Facebook 2006 vs. Facebook 2018

Back in the day, Zuckerberg had Facebook pegged as an educational directory. It’s now an extension of our everyday lives, on desktop, mobile and tablet. Stats show that over 1.37 billion people in the world are active users on the platform. Facebook’s home page has migrated away from the school-style interface to the warm community-centric design, as seen in the simplistic entry system for logging in and creating an account.

3. YouTube 2006 vs. YouTube 2018

‘Broadcast Yourself’ was the slogan YouTube attached its name to in 2006, a year after the very first user video was uploaded. A call of encouragement for the public to publish video content, which was a largely unfamiliar pastime. Nowadays, it’s a goldmine: for consumers to binge on; for vloggers and businesses to cultivate their brand storytelling. Both sides of the coin have had a proactive effect on the dynamic appearance of the 2018 YouTube homepage. What you see is geared towards what you like. Real-time content uploads mean no two profile display pages are ever the same.

4. eBay 2000 vs. eBay 2018

The coupon website theme of old eBay is barely recognisable as the sleek eCommerce platform we know today. Goodbye street stall, hello online mall. Product categories shifting from sidebar to a horizontal position of prominence allows full width for ads and product snippets. Badges of authentication and site user statistics were necessary back when buying online was a sketchy business; these elements have been rightfully stripped, as 2 in 3 users are active on p2p platforms like Amazon.

5. Wikipedia 2002 vs. Wikipedia 2018

The relentless listings on old Wikipedia’s home page would drive today’s average reader crazy. Moving away from the linear glossary of terms, the site architecture of 2018 collates features to give the reader options for taking in information based on context. News, featured articles, and facts are pulled from high authority pages and updated frequently.

6. Outlook Live 2000 vs. Outlook 2018

The facelift for Outlook is a prime example of what happens when a brand leaves it’s old identify behind. Now reincarnated as Outlook, the homepage of Microsoft acts as a drawbridge that connects users with a kingdom of tools for the modern business to succeed. Out with clunky sign-up instructions, in with a contemporary call to action prompt.

7. 2001 vs. 2018

Interactive news was the phrase of the era for in 2001. Ad space was hemmed into the classifieds. Now it’s the main benefactor behind the growth of news publications, like the example above. The two-column framework principle hasn’t dramatically altered site architecture for, cosmetic changes permit peripheral bulletins to now take up space once occupied by sidebar navigation.

8. Reddit 2007 vs. Reddit 2018

Although only the eighth most popular website in Australia, Reddit is ranked at number 5 worldwide. The social community platform runs on algorithms that only data geeks on par with Good Will Hunting can claim to crack. Having a story promoted to the main page can offer huge returns for web traffic and subscribers, hence why Reddit is a key referral source for both SEOs and online marketers in 2018.

9. Gumtree 2004 vs. Gumtree 2018

The visual transformation of Gumtree’s inventory from text to image is the main point of difference between old and new design. E-commerce components such as price tags and short text descriptions mean less time spent on unnecessary listings, whilst searching for what you want rather than from a predetermined category list puts the power in the hands of the buyer. And then there’s colour considerations – yellow spells danger in the world of website design.

10. Bureau of Meteorology 2001 vs. Bureau of Meteorology 2018

The forecast for Bureau of Meteorology’s website design may be bright, however, things were looking bleak back in 2001. Gone are the twin sidebar columns of overutilized text. In comes interactive features and customised user control over weather readings by location. These components keep users nationwide in tune with changes at any given time.

11. Yahoo! 2001 vs. Yahoo! 2018

Yahoo! today is a totally different animal to the internet services company page of the early millennium. The site now embraces an all-encompassing stance for presenting the user with information from all corners of the web and requires a visually led framework to do so. Acquisitions of popular sites like Flickr and Tumblr give options to access popular content streams within the Yahoo! Ecosystem, in addition to the standard news and email products.

12. Twitter 2007 vs. Twitter 2018

“What’s happening?” has replaced “What are you doing?” as the question on Twitter’s lips. Celebrity engagement with the platform has leant on showcasing the famous faces of top publishers to encourage greater interaction from the public. Although mobile overshadows desktop usage, Twitter’s minimalist home page design reflects this main draw with photos and its discovery feature.

13. Telstra 2008 vs. Telstra 2018

Finding your way around the 2008 Telstra home page would have driven the average homeowner to tears. Fast forward to the layout of information on the home page in 2018 and the confusion has been eliminated through warm, simplistic design. A call to action to find out more is only a click away. Choosing between a personal and business plan becomes a simple and straightforward decision.

14. Instagram 2011 vs. Instagram 2018

Instagram lives and breathes on mobile, championing the signing up to IOS or Android has and continues to remain the main prompt for the desktop site. A more detailed discussion can be reserved for addressing some of the many steps taken on these devices – think logo changes, product promotion, icon design – to keep in tune with user experience for Millennials and Generation X.

15. Department of Human Services 2006 vs. Department of Human Services 2018

Corporate website design in the public sector has its restraints. It’s not uncommon for a site like the Department of Human Services to exhibit minimal changes in its appearance and functionality. Tell-tale signs such as stock imagery are indicative of a risk-averse strategy.

16. Commonwealth Bank 2004 vs. Commonwealth Bank 2018

Banking is perceived as a sector far removed from creative and visually stimulating website design. Commonwealth Bank has gone against the grain to demonstrate that less is more with a user-friendly composition. Punchy straplines and photography with a human touch are amongst the changes made to reassure customers of seeking banking information and services online.

17. ABC 2000 vs. ABC 2018

A comprehensive rebranding of the ABC website has stripped the core design of many unhelpful and irrelevant aspects that the modern-day version can do without. More focus is given to the visual storytelling of current affairs through high res photography, whilst user navigation is concealed within the appropriate space between masthead and newsfeed.

18. AirG 2010 vs. AirG 2018

For the website of the world’s largest mobile social network to prosper in 2018 the habits of old had to be left behind. Naturally, imagery of handsets and vibrant colours would suit the current audience more than stock imagery set to macabre background tones. Information about the service is now reserved for specialist pages within the header, whilst features about product offerings have been promoted to capture higher engagement.

19. Netflix 2005 vs. Netflix 2018

Chances are you never knew about Netflix when the digital entertainment channel launched almost 20 years ago. 1 in 3 Australians now subscribe, according to reports. There’s no longer the need to push ‘satisfaction scores’ on potential audiences – everybody seems to know what Netflix is, though that wasn’t always the case. Since then Netflix has also shunned the transparency of its pricing structure on the home page in favour of a free trial CTA, as with the stylistic introduction of a snapshot of the breadth of its shows. Let the entertainment speak for itself seems to be the mantra.

20. 2010 vs. RealEstate 2018

Consistency in composition and functionality prioritises the house hunter in both variations of’s website design. The prompt for searching properties to buy has evolved with user expectations; as an example, filters replace individual fields in the search function. Emotional themes in photography are incorporated to reinforce the direction of the business and strengthen its bond with families across Australia.

The Top 20 Most Popular Websites in Australia

The comparisons above have been pulled from research conducted internally by Indago Digital. Shown below is the full list of most popular websites in Australia by user traffic.


Rank Site URL Type
1 Google Search Engine
2 Facebook Social Media & Communities
3 YouTube Social Media & Communities
4 eBay eCommerce
5 Wikipedia Information Portal
6 Outlook Live E-Mail
7 News & Media
8 Reddit Entertainment
9 Gumtree eCommerce
10 BoM News & Media
11 Yahoo! News & Media
12 Twitter Social Media & Communities
13 Telstra Telecommunications
14 Instagram Social Media & Communities
15 Centrelink Government
16 COMM Bank Finance
17 ABC News & Media
18 AirG Internet  & Telecom
19 Netflix Entertainment
20 Real Estate

* The results above exclude three entries owing to their inclusion of pornographic content.

Indago Digital is an online acquisition agency specialising in all major channels for digital marketing, including web design and development. View our recent design projects and speak to us today to find out how we can take full control over your next design campaign on desktop, or mobile – or by following us on LinkedIn today!

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