If you've checked out Ubuntu's website lately, you've probably noticed that it's looking pretty slick, especially compared to a few years ago.  Here's a look at how ubuntu.com has evolved over time, and why it matters.

Well designed websites aren't a forte of the open-source community.  There are some exceptions, but many projects have home pages that, although functional, don't look like they've had an aesthetic update since the Windows 95 era.  GNU Mailman is an example.  Linux.org is another.

Geeks may not care about pretty CSS or flashy javascript as long as they can access a site's content easily, but there is something to be said for sleek Web design when it comes to appealing to the masses.

Ubuntu.com through the years

On this front, Ubuntu's website has come a long way in the last couple years.  Here's a look at the home page from August 6, 2007, courtesy of the Internet Archive (since dead links broke the CSS in the Internet Archive's version of the page, I pieced it back together; for the full HTML, click here):

Ubuntu 7.04

That's by no means ugly, but compare it to Ubuntu's current home page:

Ubuntu 9.10

The current page is a lot flashier and cleaner, and displays a slideshow of Ubuntu screenshots, which is a great way to show users what the operating system can do.

The positive evolution of Ubuntu's website is also apparent from the "feature tour" pages created for different Ubuntu releases.  Feisty's page has some screenshots and is decent enough, as is the tour of Ubuntu 7.10.  But these pages aren't as fun or easy to read as they could be, and don't really look that much better than the HTML I crank out in OpenOffice when I don't have time to make real Web pages.

With Hardy, a much more impressive tour emerged that gorgeously demonstrated Ubuntu's new features in a pleasant and engaging way.  This remained the standard for 8.10 and 9.04.

The tour for Ubuntu 9.10 takes things to a whole new level, with an exciting layout and loads of attractive screenshots that truly show Ubuntu in action, playing 3D games and a video of non-Free media content.

It would be nice if the screenshots could be viewed in full size by clicking on them, and some screencasts (of desktop effects, for example) would not hurt in order to impress upon potential users the idea that Ubuntu really is on an equal part with Windows and OS X when it comes to doing the things normal people care about.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for improvements like these when Lucid debuts in April.  But even as it stands now, it's clear ubuntu.com has come a long way since the days of Feisty Fawn.