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The Progress of Web Design: From Tim Berners-Lee to Mobile …

Evolution of Web Design

In the early 1990s, websites were text-based. The use of images and graphics were not yet main stream at the time. The first web design was made of a single column and text-based pages in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Website pages were a collection of text documents connected to each other by internal links. Through research and development, significant advances were made. The first website was published in 1991 by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He is also the current director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) founded in 1994, which oversees the web development and its standards.

In the mid 1990s, table-based websites were introduced. Now web designers were able to organize their web pages within cells of a table. It became possible to create multiple column websites, which in return allowed better web content organization and navigation layout. Table-based websites also enabled customization of each element within the table. Web designers could now insert background images within cells of a table; however, good design principals were not really important. Website designers and clients were interested by the hottest, latest and most advanced web design technology available. As things started to evolve, frames, animated texts and visual hit counters became part of web design. Frames were used to clearly separate the body of a website from the sidebar navigation. Animated texts and GIF images were used to capture the website user's attention, while visual hit counters became a good way to measure the popularity of a webpage. In 1994, Macromedia introduced Flash, which is essentially a software used to produce Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to create animations and stream videos.

In the late 1990s, Flash became more popular. Most websites became a combination of table-based design and flash elements, with flash animations including the company's logo, a flash-based navigation and flash-based image galleries. The major Web Design innovation of the late 1990s was the introduction of Personal HOME Page (PHP) which according to Wikipedia, is a server-side scripting language designed for web development. PHP gained a lot of popularity because it is free and compatible with leading operating systems and web servers which make it deployment easy across different platforms.

The 21st century bought a lot of innovation to web design with the introduction of CSS. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used to format an HTML webpage. Now web designers could separate the content of a page (HTML) from its styling or design (layout, colors, fonts, etc.). In the early 2000s, Microsoft Internet Explorer became the first web browser to fully support the CSS structure. In stride, the concept of intelligent web was introduced with the advent of JavaScript. Now designers could animate content without flash and perform a complex computation of data. The use of drop-down menus and forms also became very popular. These forms allowed internet users to generate content online, create personal profiles and upload pictures.

In the mid 2000s, the semantic web was born. This movement primary allows machines and computers to understand website pages as well as human do. This was made possible by inserting computer readable Meta tags about pages and their relationship to one another through technologies such as XML, TURTLE and N-TRIPLES.

The last decade was marked by the advent of web 2.0 with some major updates. The web became more and more interactive, and web applications began to expand. Now web content can refresh itself without having the entire page reloaded. The attention is now geared towards web content (articles, Press Releases, graphics and videos) instead of just selling products online. And HTML 5 was introduced as an alternative to Flash and graphics.

Mobile Web The New Trend

A recent study shown that by 2014, mobile device sales will exceed desktop sales. More and more web designers are converting their website to a responsive version for users on the go. The new standard is geared towards tall and skinny websites, rather than short and wide lay-outs. The navigation menu is significantly reduced to the most important links. Nowadays, mobile sites are used for various purposes, such as location detection, GPS tracking, etc. and the data is offer services, such mobile coupons, local restaurant reviews, etc. Another recent study stated that two-thirds of cell phone users say they access the web / email from their device.

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