The History of Web Design: Where it All Started & Where it’s Heading
Web design has come a long way from the days of text-only interfaces. The web design industry has gone through numerous iterations over the last 30 years. While it can be humorous to look at the older websites built by the first web design companies to exist, we can take inspiration from them and know that everything old can be new again.
Today, web design has become an essential industry. Excellent web designs have led to the success of countless businesses. A website is much more than a validation tool. Web design now involves more than well-placed images. Every web design must account for load speed, content, SEO optimisation, and web responsiveness.
We’re going to backtrack and break down the history of web design. We will look at how it has changed over the last few decades and how it continues to evolve. Whether you wish to take a trip down memory lane or learn about where this industry is heading, read on to discover the history of web design.
The History of Web Design
The Late 80s
We can describe this time as the dark age of web design. Most people believe that the “World Wide Web” concept began in 1946 when it was described in a short story by Murray Leinster. However, the official invention was credited to physicist Tim Berner-Lee in 1989. Tim used hypertext to create an index of pages for a client. This hypertext evolved into what we now know as web pages. Designers in the late 80s worked on black screens with pixels. The design included symbols and tabulation or the TAB key.
1991: The First Web Page
In August 1991, Tim Berner-Lee launched the first web page hosted on a NeXT computer at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. However, this was a simple page with information about the World Wide Web. This web page provided a breakthrough for web designers who worked with HTML tables to organise content horizontally and vertically.
1992: The First Photo on the Internet
Today’s images and memes began in 1992 when pop parody group Les Horribles Cernettes uploaded a mundane photo. Berner-Lee updated his browser’s version, allowing it to support photos. His team tested the browser with this image taken of the band backstage by an IT developer. This invention made images a critical component of web design in the 90s and beyond.
1994: The First Web Page
The internet began its transition into commercial space in 1994. A banner by technology company AT&T on HotWired.com was the first thing to be purchased on the internet. The banner was clicked on by 44% of the people who saw it. This banner created a buzz among advertisers and consumers. Banners like this became popular in 90s web design. Web banners remain a staple in modern design since they are an excellent way to integrate your logo into your web layout seamlessly. Web hosting service Geocities was invented in the same year, allowing users to create free homepages. This marked the first time everyday people could create a website. Even though the design was simple, future designers brought their creations to life with colourful clip art and experimental text formatting.
FutureSplash, later known as Adobe Flash, allowed designers to create more dynamic websites by integrating animation, video, and audio. While this was a significant step in the web design industry, it required users to install the correct flash technology to view these animations. There was the beginning of scrolling marques and gifs. Although these are virtually non-existent in today’s web design, they became the predecessor to elements like animation, video, and micro-interactions.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was created by Hakon Wium Lie and Bert Bos in 1998. This software allowed designers to separate the content (HTML) from the visual elements (layout, colours, and font). Designers became more flexible and could more comfortably control the appearance of a website than ever before.
2003: The Birth of Blogging
As today’s WordPress web design agencies would know, this software is the most popular CMS in the world. WordPress came into the web design industry in 2003. This blogging software was an extension of an earlier project called Catalogue. During the early days of WordPress, users were limited to creating static and straightforward blog posts with little personalisation. However, WordPress introduced plug-ins for further customisation and themes that allowed users to change the appearance of their sites.
This is the first social medial network that brought coding into the industry. MySpace allowed users to customise their layout through simple HTML programming. The result was a more aesthetic layout filled with glittery graphics, images, and block texts.
2007: Mobile Era
The first iPhone was launched in 2007, making websites accessible on mobile phones. The 960-grid systems and 12-column division rose in popularity to address the demand for mobile browsing.
2010: Responsive Design
Responsive design was a response to the growing popularity of smartphone browsing. This design allowed designers to create websites that automatically adjust and scale to any size, regardless of the device an individual uses to browse.
2010 to 2019: Modern Web Design
HTML, responsive design, and CSS continued to reign the web design industry. The industry exploded and attracted many people, giving rise to different aesthetics and styles.
2019- 2022: Users are Human
Today, websites provide a multi-sensory experience due to the growing popularity of full-screen video backgrounds, animation, and interactive navigation. We have seen the user more involved in the website than ever before. Users demand exceptional web experience, and there is increasing pressure to leverage technology to deliver user experience. Today’s elite web designer companies must create everything with the user in mind and remember that users are people and not numbers.
The Future of Web Design
What does the future hold? We can anticipate accessibility to gain ground. The internet is a free resource, and everyone, including the hearing and visually impaired, has equal access. If they haven’t already, designers need to consider adding captioning in videos and descriptive videos for site navigation. Website designers must create ways to take users to the next level and provide an exceptional web experience. Micro-personalisation will also gain momentum as we continue to leverage artificial intelligence to deliver a fantastic user experience. However, this will lead to privacy and ethical concerns. How much personal information collected will be okay? With AI becoming popular, strict regulations around protecting personal information is paramount, and designers must consider them in all aspects of web design.
How Marketing Sweet Can Help
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