I think that could be understood misleadingly though. They were not designed in a utilitarian way, for the most part. Many were barely “designed” in a modern sense at all, as you can see in the examples. They just slapped together, largely because people had heard “you need a website”.
The limitations you note were real - but they none of that meant your site had to look like trash, just that it had to be very simple. Yet most sites did look like hot trash. Why? Because most people building them were not trained designers (often they were programmers, and let’s be real, up until about 2005, approximately 85% of programmers had taste so bad it hurt), were not taking input from designers, and were inexperienced and fundamentally incompetent at their jobs (or “not yet competent” a kinder man might say). You could often charge pretty much whatever the client would agree to, to design a site back then. I guarantee you some of the trashiest-looking examples in those links cost 6 figures, even 7 or more. Yet if you found someone who had mild taste and some skill you could get a site that looked better than those for 3-4 figures. I got paid the better part of £1000 to build a site that looked terrible but it was what the guy wanted (I tried to steer him away), and I was just a rando child at the time.
As for text browsers, (which one did have to use to get info out of the trashiest sites), monitor limitations, and “no-one could guarantee your visitor had a mouse” and so on, that’s absolutely true, and largely irrelevant, because no-one was sticking to any standards about anything at all (except as enforced by browser limitations etc.). You might have been, but 99% of people designing sites, including professionals, in 1996, were not.
You’re writing like people were rationally, sensibly constructing these things with a clear idea of what the goal was and an actual methodology, and in 1996 that was completely untrue. It wasn’t even slightly true. People just did whatever the hell they thought was a good idea. Dudes who read one book on HTML and didn’t understand most of it were the sole coders (and sometimes sole artist!) on major brand websites. Website technology fads came and went every month like memes. Today’s web is incredibly stable in terms of how stuff works by comparison.
Now by 1999 a lot of this had changed, but in 1996, it was screaming chaos. Rational design had gone out the window. By 1999 criticising bad website had gone, well, not mainstream but it was actually a thing, because there were increasing numbers of good websites. I used to hang out at Portal of Evil, which specialized in appalling websites (appalling for any reason, design, politics, sanity, etc.), which was set up and run by Chet “Left 4 Dead” Faliszek. Oh how we laughed when he joined Valve. Anyway, the whole point of that site was mocking those sites (there was a rule against in any way contacting or harassing the people who ran them).