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The Evolution of Web Design

In this post you will learn about the history of web design and how it has changed over the past 25 years. Going all the way back to 1991, we will explore the different stages and styles that web design went through. It is important to be aware of the web design evolution so that you can understand how and why modern websites look the way they do.

Websites today are undoubtedly more advanced than ever. However at first glance they might not look it. Modern web design is based on user experience; web designers have learned that people want something clean and simple. So for that reason designers have done away with large 3D buttons and other content that just clutters the page. Today people like to see large background images and easy to follow layouts. They also want to view websites on a variety of screens; from their TV’s to their smartphones people have come to expect quality. For the reasons above many sites are switching over to infinite scroll or single page design. But the question is how did we get here? Read on to find out!

In 1991 the first ever website went live. This site, as you can see below, isn’t very impressive at first glance. However, as most people will remember dial-up connection was painfully slow. Because of that, making a web page look attractive was not the main concern. At this point the main concern was to have a website that loads in a timely manor.

Additionally, the original version of HTML didn’t allow for much customization. Basically your options for customization consisted of a header, paragraphs, links, and tags. Overall these early sites were fully functioning but in a very basic format.

By the mid to late 90’s “high-speed” Internet connections were becoming more affordable for the average consumer. As a result of this and the improvements to HTML, websites were able to take a big step forward.

Web designers still relied heavily on text based layouts however they began to incorporate tables and simple navigation panels. Also images and animated text became more popular. Take a look at the screen shot below; this is from the late 90’s. It has relatively well designed layout, it’s easy enough to follow and find what you are looking for, however it is still very cluttered and somewhat overwhelming compared to a modern website. Despite the cluttered and ‘boxy’ look, there is no doubt that in just a few years web design had taken some major steps forward.

By the early 2000’s web designers were getting much better. They now had a variety of tools and programs to help build their sites including HTML and Flash. The combination of these two allowed for much more visually appealing layouts. Graphics became much easier to incorporate into the designs.

At this time there was also increasing support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS allowed designers to separate content from design so that they could change the background colors and format across the entire site without having to rewrite every individual page. CSS made webpages much easier to maintain but also much faster as well because there was less code. At this point in time the ease of use for the end user was becoming the biggest concern for web design.

In the mid 2000’s JavaScript was growing in popularity. It eliminated the need for cluttered table-based layouts and allowed for a more customizable structure. This is when drop down menus started to become popular as well. Search engine optimization also became a common term for marketers and web designers. Keywords and tags started to play a major role in content and design.

The late 2000’s gave rise to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. These sites changed the way people got news, communicated with friends and so much more. Additionally people became fascinated with mobile applications and wanted more interactive content. Web designers had to get smarter and more creative because things were shifting towards more interactivity and engagement. At this point people were finally realizing the true power of the Internet, as a huge social network.

Aesthetically, web design was more focused on the use of icons, clean layouts, and finally content. Designers really began to understand the value of frequent content. Search engine optimization was (and still is) growing in popularity; people realized that in order to optimize their company’s search results frequent content is a necessity.

It is clear that a lot has been accomplished in less than 25 years. It is impressive to see the amount of progression that has been made in such a short amount of time. And there is no doubt that technology will keep advancing as time goes on. With products like smart watches and smart glasses already hitting the marketplace, the options are limitless. It will be exciting to see where technology will take us next!

For more information on the evolution of web design and how you can modernize your site, contact Contemporary Media Group today!

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