The Evolution of Web Design

The Evolution of Web Design

In this article we'll follow the long path web design made, starting back in the early 1990s when websites were presented as a single column, text-based pages, done in HTML. Websites looked like a series of text documents with inline links; and dynamic elements were not even a thought.

Right after the formation of WWC (World Wide Web Consortium) in mid 1990s, table-based sites and online page builders replaced the simple text-based web design. More complex, multiple column, sites were created due to table-based HTML. This expanded the text-based design model, allowing for better content organization and navigation layout. Background images were often inserted into tables; animated text, scrolling text, and gif images started bouncing across websites. Frame pages became a popular way to clearly distinguish the body from other website elements and navigation.

Also, visual counters starting to appear at the sites' bottom. Other significant improvement was the introduction of Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash). The late 1990s were marked by the rise of Flash. Many websites were spiced up by a combination of table-based design and flash elements, like featuring company logos bouncing around and gleaming before their homepage and flash-based animation that expanded and changed color when a user clicked on it. A serious progress was made by the introduction of CSS and PHP – dynamic design language (PHP3) gained popularity with its release in 1998.

And 2000 was the year of CSS potential recognition. Cascading Style Sheets allowed allowed designers to separate website content form web design. Using CSS, the design elements such as background color, images and text formatting options could have been defined separately (in a style sheet), rather than in the main HTML page. This advancement made it easier to control the uniform look and feel of a website apart from the content. The rise of JavaScript started in the early 2000s. Web designers began loading tables and using JavaScript for page layouts. JavaScript allowed designers to animate menus without Flash. Navigation bars began moving to the top of the page and drop down menus became a popular navigation choice.

Semantic web was introduced in the mid 2000s. This web design movement aimed at allowing machines to understand web pages as well as human viewers do. In the late 2000s web design began to take a turn toward interactive content and web applications with the progress of web 2.0 concepts: Interactive content that changes without having to refresh the page. Powerful applications have flooded the internet. Design focus has become more about social web and traffic-driven websites. Socially driven websites tried to interest the user and allow him or her to share content, articles, graphics, etc., than just selling products.

The rise of smart phones and tablet computers are driving the popularity of the mobile web. In 2008, mobile access to the internet exceeded desktop access for the first time in history. Since then, more and more websites have been designing alternative "mobile" versions for their active-living users on the move. Mobile sites contain the essentials of the regular website; navigation is minimal – reduced to the most important areas of the site.