The History of Web Design

laptop on a desk, with a notepad and pen

Web design has shaped the way we see the internet. With only a few decades in production, why don't we look back at the history and growing evolution of this industry!

1900 to 2000

The first website was designed by Tim Berners-Lee in August 1991. Berners-Lee was also the creator of Hypertext Markup Language which played a huge part in the early stages of web design. One example being the '<table>' function. This was used in the early 90's as a way to organise information. Adding to his website, Berners-Lee also uploaded the first image online a year later.

As well as this, in 1992, the very first search engine launched. Albeit very difficult to the search engines we're used to today, ALIWEB was a webpage that organised links into categories. This platform also included the first pops of colour which was designed to make it easier for users to navigate through each category.

Images, graphics and other colour features soon began to feature across more websites during the mid 90s. This was also when the concept of web design and business goals really began to collaborate. Not only was this the beginning of landing pages and colourful 'contact us' buttons, but in 1994, the first web banner ad was created.

It wasn't until the late 90's that we began to see a real change in web design with developments that would truly impact the history of this industry.

JavaScript and CSS were a few examples of this as they really helped to add personality and excitement to websites across the internet. These tools gradually began to also improve the way users interacted with websites and slowly the term 'user experience' came to life. The first Google beta was later launched in 1998 by two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This new search engine explored the use of indexing page results based on search terms. After becoming a major search engine, the term 'Search Engine Optimisation' began to grow as businesses came up with different ways to rank higher online.

2000 to 2010

The integration of online payments arose in the early 2000's and we soon began to see a range of ecommerce businesses switching from analogue to digital transactions.

This decade, we also saw the development of website's being designed for not just desktop browsers but various other devices! This led to an insane growth in websites, specifically with companies joining the digital platform to showcase their expertise.

To further improve the quality of design and user experience, most companies began focusing on content-based elements. In 2003, the need for content and design control grew, leading to the rise of Content Management Systems. One example of a CMS system during this time was WordPress. This platform now accounts for 35.9% of websites online and has truly impacted the future of web design.

Mid to late 2000's saw the launch of social media. Quickly rising in popularity, this platform not only changed the way users communicated and interacted online, but it also set a new pace for design. This was because it quickly became important for businesses to create widgets, ads and graphics for their social media profiles.

Many businesses also merged this platform with their website as another way of improving the visibility of their company.

In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone. This device also had access to the first fully usable HTML browser known as Safari. Not only did this announcement change many business' design strategies, but it also became imperative for designers to create mobile friendly and responsive designs during the production of their websites.

2010 to Present

2010 saw a range of fluctuating design trends, starting with shadows, depth, textures and animation and then later turning to more minimalistic elements, bright colours and 2D graphics. This was especially made apparent after the Apple update from iOS 6 to iOS 7.

Currently, web design has a dominant focus on human experiences with a high demand in user experience. This could be anything from a blue spinning circle when loading a page to a vibration when you like a post. All these features help to improve customer satisfaction and have become increasingly popular within business design strategies.

Bespoke designs for specific audiences are another trend that has allowed businesses to target their customer base depending on the brand designs of their industry. They highlight this by also implementing marketing and development techniques, making it interactive and SEO friendly.