“They’re tipping their hat to the 1990s,” said David Lee, the chief creative officer of Squarespace, a web platform company based in New York that has created millions of websites for clients. Mr. Lee said that he has seen a recent uptick in what he calls an “anti-design brutalism,” with clients opting for more bare-bones, retro-looking sites.
Some websites are purposely cumbersome to navigate, with loud, clip-art-filled pages. Others employ a simplistic Craigslist-style utilitarianism that feels like a throwback to an era when web pages were coded by hand.
“There’s a lot of animated GIFs and flames, but mixing it with something new,” Mr. Lee added.
While millennials and members of Generation Z — those born in the years from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s — may not remember what the web looked like in the era of AltaVista and GeoCities, the retro designs tap into the current cultural revival of all things ’90s. (See the return of “Twin Peaks,” “Will & Grace” and concert T-shirts.)
For those who are older, these sites recall the improvised internet of their youth, in the days before mobile optimization and beta-tested user interfaces brought a sleek uniformity to modern web design.
Nostalgic websites meant to mimic the days of dial-up modems are cropping up in artsy and tech-geek corners of the web.
Windows93.net, a web project by the French music and art duo Jankenpopp & Zombectro, imagines what the Microsoft operating system would have looked like had it been released. (After a two-year development delay, Microsoft instead released Windows 95.) The site has had more than eight million visitors.
NeoCities, built in 2013 by Kyle Drake, 33, a web entrepreneur based in Palo Alto, Calif., is a homage to GeoCities, the early web hosting platform. (GeoCities, started in 1994, was acquired by Yahoo in 1999 for $3.6…