The Evolution of Web Design

Posted on 12th August 2020

Looking at the sophistication of the web today it is hard to believe that it didn’t exist a couple of decades ago. It’s easy to forget the early days of the web, when the mid-90s dial-up service provided access to a seriously limited WWW. Of course, with such incredibly slow speeds, design wasn’t really a consideration for the earliest website developers. As long as they worked, that was all that mattered.

Mid-90s Web Design

Throughout the mid-reaches of the 90s, web design largely focused on functionality. But in terms of actual design elements, developers were beginning to experiment with content divided into columns, the use of background images and ‘novelty’ content of no specific value. You may also remember this as an era when ‘hit counters’ were extremely popular, displaying how many visitors had accessed the site in real-time. Interestingly, this was also a time during which the job title ‘web designer’ didn’t actually exist yet.

Late 90s Web Design

Aside from the undeniably painful overuse of animated GIFs, the biggest craze in web design was a certain game-changing creation called Flash. These days, staying away from Flash is often an advisable choice in many instances, but back then it was making huge waves. What was particularly significant about Flash was the way in which it sparked a period where web designers and developers began to think more about user interactions and the user experience in general, rather than the simple presentation of information.

Early 2000s Web Design

Cascading style sheets – aka CSS – started to become the tools of choice for web designers at the turn of the millennium, which, along with revolutionising the presentation of websites, also massively improved loading times and performance. Websites became easier to maintain and for the first time, the web was looked at as not just a novelty, but something with spectacular potential. Experimentation with fonts, images, animations and flash was rife – many found themselves competing for glory with increasingly elaborate websites. Interestingly, the latter half of this period was when designers began to focus less on the user experience and more on winning over the increasingly powerful search engines.

Today’s Web Design

What’s different about web design today is that for the first time, designers comprehensively understand both the web itself and what web users expect. Overly elaborate websites have been replaced with simple, refined and often ‘flat’ websites where only a few select colours are used. The mobile movement has seen Flash largely thrown out of the window, replaced instead by comprehensive focus on the mobile user’s experience.

The Future of Web Design

The only thing we know for sure about the future of web design is that mobile will be the be all and end all of things. Right now, more consumers than ever before are accessing the web exclusively via mobile devices – a trend set to continue indefinitely. This in turn means that web designers are finding it necessary to focus most of their time and attention on the mobile web experience, rather than standard desktop sites. Readability, concise content, simple navigation and fast loading times – are the four cornerstones of successful mobile web design for this generation and the next generation to come. Contact Say Web Design about your web design requirements today.