Nostalgia is Everywhere Except Online
People spend loads of money maintaining classic cars that are half a century old. Music stores are filled with vinyl records (the ones left standing, anyway). Popular fashion trends are just rehashes of styles from 20-30 years ago with things like mom jeans, scrunchies, and fanny packs coming back in an unironic way. When you turn on the TV or go to the movies, all you see is a slew of remakes and reboots of shows and films year, after year, after year… and don’t forget about our collective obsession with Stranger Things. Even as I write this, I can turn on the radio and probably hear Lana Del Ray covering Doin’ Time, a song written by Sublime more than 20 years ago. The obsession with the late 80’s/early 90’s is insanely strong right now.
This is nothing new though. Artists have covered songs for as long as music has been around, every generation always looks back at the decades before with warm and fuzzy feelings, replicating fashion trends and incorporating the times into popular media.
But why is nostalgia so powerful?
I’m no psychologist, so I’ll save you some in depth armchair psychiatry. However, I do think it all boils down to the idea of the “good old days.” That those were “simpler times” where everything was great, or at least better than they are now. The feelings people attach to things from a different time is incredibly powerful, and by consuming media and embracing trends from those times, we can maybe somehow mentally teleport ourselves back then.
However, in all the areas of our lives that nostalgia has seemingly seeped into, have you noticed that the digital world has gone essentially untouched by nostalgia? Nobody wants to build their website to make it look like it was developed in the early 2000’s. No one wants to hear the old Nokia ringtone every time their phone rings. And not a single soul ever wants to hear this sound ever again.
But why is that? Why hasn’t the world been swept up in a wave of digital nostalgia the way we have for almost everything else in our lives?
The good old days were not so good
The same feelings that makes fashion and film nostalgia so powerful offer an explanation as to why digital nostalgia is non-existent. Think about the first time you ever surfed the web. Internet load times, thanks to dial-up internet, were excruciatingly long. Website designs were impractical, muddled, and ugly. Storage space and memory in older computers and devices were extremely limited. Our naivete caused us to expose our computers to viruses by thoughtlessly opening emails from Nigerian princes and downloading music from sketchy websites.
You didn’t realize it at the time because it was all so exciting and new, but the old days of the internet was a real burden! Let’s be honest: it stunk. So now whenever we see an outdated website or hear that crackling dial-up tone, our brains pull memories from the past – but they aren’t positive ones. An old web design tells our brains that that website is unreliable, that it is sketchy, that I need to click away right now and go literally anywhere else.
The Internet is still so young
It is hard to believe, but another reason that nostalgia has yet to make its way to the digital world is that it is still so young! The World Wide Web only became publicly available on August 6, 1991. That is less than 30 years ago! Heck, the first apps didn’t roll out until 2008, just over 10 years ago. Sure, people my age basically grew up with the internet, but so many more didn’t and many from older generations STILL don’t understand any of it.
Coupled with the fact that advances in digital technology continue to change, evolve, and improve almost day-to-day it seems, I feel like regardless of what generation you are from we simply haven’t had enough time to latch on to any element long enough to grow that fondly of it. Sure you may miss an old feature, like how Twitter or Facebook’s timeline used to look but you never really had it long enough to become as attached to it as you would an old television show.
Don’t look backwards with your website design
Web design and all other digital trends are about looking forward, not backward. There’s no place for nostalgia on your website. If you want a web design that is going to resonate with audiences you need to research, learn, and embrace the latest and greatest trends. But, start with a plan! Check out our conversation with Peter Wolfgram on our podcast, More Than a Few Words.