web design history

A brief history of web design

Web design is one of the important means to attract visitors’ attention and boost your business. The site with a trendy minimalist design is a perfect way to present the company to the target audience and sell the product or service. The approaches to web design have changed throughout the years and the sites we come across now differ greatly from the pages that existed earlier. 

The first web pages
The first web pages

The so-called dark ages of web design took place in the late 80s. When Tim Berner-Lee invented the world wide web, the pages were created with hypertext and looked like the black screen with few monochrome pixels. The design of these pages was created with the use of tabulation (Tab key) and symbols.

The first web pages

The first full-fledged websites appeared at the beginning of the 1990s and these pages were looking quite simple – the text was organized in tables and occupied much of the sites’ space. There were no visual elements. The sites were not customer-oriented, there was no interactivity, the web pages did not have an appropriate content management system. The main focus was made on the content and the links. The updates were made rarely and were not related to the appearance of the site. 

The beginnings of the web design

As time passed, the design of the pages began to change. In the mid-nineties, the use of the Web gained momentum and people started paying more attention to the design. However, the webmasters were more interested in the experiments than in the aesthetic impression. The sites contained images, tables and lists. JavaScript was perceived more like a toy than a design tool.

The beginnings of the web design
The beginnings of the web design

In the second half of the nineties, the commercial web pages started to appear. The appearance of the sites started to play a more serious role and the designers began to apply a wider set of tools, including:

  • Adobe Flash;
  • PHP;
  • CSS
  • CGI.
  • GIF-animation turned into the widespread practice that was used for serious purposes.

Web design in the 21st century

In the 21st century, people realized that the web pages should not only be convenient from the technical side but also attractive and user-friendly from the visual point of view. The CSS2 allowed separating the visual presentation and the content of the site. 

The rise of blogging

In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created WordPress. The first release of the platform offered users to create blog posts that provided little visual personalization and very simple design. Later WordPress provided the customization, so the users received the ability to alter the appearance of their pages without changing the content. Nowadays WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems that provide the open-source software for web-designers, and also a widely used blogging platform.

First big social network

The year 2004 was memorable for the rise of MySpace. This platform was the first that provided the users the ability to customize the layout with their pages with the help of HTML. Thus, coding has become more mainstream. 

MySpace Design
MySpace Design

The launch of MySpace and personalized web pages appearance was another important milestone in the establishment of web design. There were layouts with a great number of images, glittery graphics and the text divided into blocks. MySpace pages were an example of expressing personality through DIY design.

Early approaches to web design

The first web designers who started taking steps to improve the layouts of the sites realized that it is easier to perceive the information that is grouped into units. Also, it is hard for the reader to consume too much information on the page. The designers started dividing the content by placing it on different pages. They applied the navigation by the tables and menus. The landing page became a central element of the cite containing a little amount of information but redirecting the visitors to the other pages. Some other innovations in the sphere of web design were bright colors and blinking text.

While the Internet and software were developing rapidly, the monitors with a big screen, faster processors and the increased speed of connection had a positive influence on the website design. Due to the larger screens, sidebars and multi-column layouts gained more and more popularity. The emergence of Web 2.0 led to the development of customized and interactive features on the pages.

The mobile era

The launch of the iPhone in 2007 opened new possibilities for web designers. Now the priority number one was to create the websites compatible with the mobile screens. Smartphones influenced the way we use the Internet greatly. The demand for browsing on mobile phones affected the popularity of 12-column division and 960-grid systems.

After the declaration made by Steve Jobs that the iPhone was not supporting Flash, the designers had to search for the other means for the website development. The search engines became a common thing and the Flash content became inaccessible for them. The need for Flash was reducing and it was gradually being substituted by more kinds of content created on the basis of HTML. In ten years Flash technology became outdated.

The JavaScript technique, Ajax made the web pages very interactive. It allowed users to interact with the site in place without the need to reload the whole page. 

Flat design

In the mobile era, the design of websites was simplified. Designers refused the use of 3D effects and traces of depth to make the pages more adaptable for different screen sizes. The so-called ‘flat’ design appeared in response to the new requirements. The content came to the forefront and became the priority. The visual elements were simplified. Years ago, flat design and grid-based layouts still remain popular tools in the design of the webpages, both for mobile devices and desktop.

Flat design
Flat design

The emergence of responsive design

Smartphone browsing led to the development of responsive design. This trend took place in the year 2010. People experienced the need for Internet access available from various devices, from television to watches and other gadgets. At first, the webpages were available in two versions but it was a headache both for the developers and site visitors.

The responsive design allowed creating technologies to make pages adjustable to different screen sizes. Due to this approach, the same page can be viewed from different devices.  CSS3 and HTML5 are used by the browser to define the hardware on which the site is running. The separation of the DOM or document object model from the appearance and the content of the page helped to develop the website designs that may be combined with any appearance and content.

Responsive design is no longer a trend but a standard for web designers and developers. The broad-based use of smartphones makes designers create sites that can be optimized for various devices. The owners of businesses realized that the expansion in the number of devices for viewing the companies’ websites increases the potential of buying the product or service. 

Modern web design

Many technologies described above as responsive design, HTML, and CSS are still in use today. However, there is no universal concept of how the perfect site should look like. There are many various trends, styles and approaches that are applied in modern web design. Nevertheless, modern websites often contain sharp illustrations, beautiful typography, well-designed layouts, and high-quality photos. The buttons are often replaced by icons, the users often apply vector images.

Some designers even draw inspiration from the previous periods of web design development, for instance, the late 80s which were known as the dark era of design when the pages looked like dark screens with pixels. The designs inspired by that period stand out from the other web pages due to the primitive layout, icons, blocky texts and pixelated background. 

Minimalist design

One of the trends that are extremely popular is the aesthetics of minimalism. Web designers replaced the crowded layout with the white or negative space containing few elements. The pages that were overburdened with colors and text turned into more simple and laconic versions. Typography, images and calm color palettes came to the fore. 

Nowadays the sites often have the minimalist look. They have hidden navigation buttons, a lot of white space, interesting design of fonts and user-friendly interface. The reason for the popularity of minimalism is the easiness of perception. The short-term memory of humans cannot handle more than seven units of information at once. That is why the text grouped in blocks works better than the solid piece. 

Minimalist design
Minimalist design

Minimalist design has a lot of advantages. The loading of such web pages is less time-consuming because the sites with fewer elements have faster downloading speed. One more benefit is the ability to hold the focus of the viewer on the content. The other benefits are the increased compatibility with different devices and easier navigation. In addition, minimalist website maintenance is quite easy. 

The future of web design

Modern websites contain different types of elements that affect the different channels of our perception. These are images, animation, video and sounds. Also, many websites have interactive elements like navigation. 

The future of web design

The technology is developing very rapidly. Virtual and augmented reality, chatbots and artificial intelligence have become a common thing. Digital design is transforming together with the trends and technologies, so we can make the prediction that in future people will use the headsets and the VR-glasses to view the websites. So, web design would have to adapt to the new requirements and demands of the time. 

However, something new is often related to past experience. Now the designers are inspired by the webpages created in the 80s and 90s. History has a tendency to repeat itself, so maybe in a decade, the future generation of designers would implement the trends of the year 2020.

Have questions?

Julia
Project Manager
Julia

Hello, how may I help you?

Unfortunately nobody is available currently :(

We will get back to you shortly!