During our Interface Design and Typography-course at the Content Strategy Master programme of FH Joanneum Graz we had to analyze the evolution of web design with the help of a specific example. This blog post should provide more generalized, broader insights into the journey from the very first websites in the 90s to state-of-the-art web design in 2020.
Table of Contents
The first website
In 1991, the structure of HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the markup language webpages are written in) offered only very basic elements such as headlines, links, and paragraphs. Although the following HTML updates introduced more sophisticated elements such as images, it was still a long way to the adoption of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which allows the advanced design of websites.
Structured design with tables
With the introduction of tables, web designers brought more structure to the design of websites. In fact, the first WYSIWYG web editors like Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver utilized tables to create multi-column layouts. Background colors and images allowed some creative layout design, but HTML was still very basic back then.
Complex designs with Flash & DHTML
Flash allowed web designers to design beyond HTML’s capabilities. As a relatively simple development tool, it became quite popular to design motion graphics, interactive content and complex layouts. Sometimes, even entire websites used Flash in the late 90s to offer an exceptional experience to their visitors. As an alternative to Flash, which was developed by Adobe, DHTML was used to enhance websites with interactive and animated components.
With the new millennium, increasingly more web designers used CSS to design websites properly. CSS was already proposed in 1994, but it faced various difficulties with adaption. Although the advantages are obvious, it took web designers some time to wrap their heads around the separation of design and code.
Responsive design & Mobile-first
With the rise of ubiquitous computing, the WWW can be accessed by devices of different sizes. Responsive web design approaches web design from a new perspective. It ensures that websites render well on any screen size.
Google introduced its Mobile-first approach at the Mobile World Congress back in 2010. This approach is based on responsive web design, but it always starts design from a mobile perspective which expands with more features to larger screen sizes.
A new set of skills?
Nowadays, web design requires more skills and techniques than in the 90s. It’s an ever-evolving field encompassing disciplines such as UX and interaction design, usability, accessibility, typography, motion graphics, psychology, marketing, communication design and even more. Content strategy is involved in many of those disciplines. It’s a multi-disciplinary field that focuses on the actual content, but also the people that create the content.