ABC.com: One Decade Apart
The American Broadcasting Company has been around for over 8 decades setting a high standard for radio services in the 1940s and popular television shows like Cruel Summer in 2021. When the World Wide Web gained popularity, the company jumped on the opportunity to present its services to its consumers, and the abc.com website was created.
As can be seen in the above1996 screenshot from the Internet Archive’s WayBackMachine the first edition of ABC’s website was very simple. The website advertised the shows that would be on with images and relevant information that were updated daily. The website also had information on how users could tune in to the ABC channel by providing links to local stations. Disney.com had also been created at that time and because of the ABC-Disney partnership, they had links to that website as well as their sports channels. Consumers would use this website to find out what would be on TV that afternoon and the best way to watch it.
The design of the website was plain, the words and sentences were very simple, and all the information was close together in the center of the screen. The colors were all very bright against a black background, and in general, there wasn’t much variation in text size, this makes sense as the user needed to be able to read all the text easily, they probably couldn’t zoom in to read anything too small. I can only assume the color choice was to make the page look exciting and vibrant, but instead, the page is difficult to look at for very long and there isn’t a natural path for your eyes to take in the information.
The 2011 site is widely different from the 1996 site. The interface became much more complicated, and it is very clear that there is a huge difference in the way media was enjoyed between 1996 and 2011. The interface looks much wider, indicating the difference in screen size between these two time periods. The colors and overall formatting of the site are a lot easier to look at than the 1996 version. Where in 1996 the focus was on using bright colors, the 2011 version takes advantage of contrasting light and dark tones, creating a much more balanced look. This choice benefits users because in 2011 (and definitely now) they are likely to spend much more time in front of the computer screen so the design needs to cause less strain on the eyes. In 1996 this wasn’t a concern because it was rare that a user would be on the computer for hours at a time.
The earlier screenshots of abc.com show that the designers’ main goal was to get important information out in the most understandable way. In 2011, the designers’ wanted a site that would still be easy to use, but there was a lot more information to present so they also needed a design that would guide the reader towards areas of the page that were most important. In the 2011 interface, the first thing the user will see is the large show advertisement that takes up most of the page, then their eyes might drift upwards to the ABC logo and links to watch episodes and see the cable schedule, then their eyes will travel back down to see the big advertisement to become a member of the website. The 1996 version wasn’t organized nearly as well so the differences we see in 2011 reflect the practices developed by designers to make the user experience more helpful and the website more profitable.