It only seems like yesterday since we started using the internet, but in just a couple of decades the design of the web has changed dramatically. So what, if anything, have we learned from the evolution of web design?
1990 – 1994
The 90’s saw the birth of the original web browser, Nexus, making it the very first step in web design. There’s no denying that the internet was an exciting new playground for designers, so I guess we can be forgiven for the way that websites used to look way back in the day. 1993 was a time when Yahoo used to dominate the web and if you check out the infographic below, you can see just how different it is from today!
The site offers an extremely text heavy design, with clunky navigation and simple icons representing images. The reason for this was possibly down to the fact that many browsers could only support text, and monitors would only support 16 colors! Netscape appeared in 1994 and was so powerful at the time, that many websites came with a supporting message: “Best if viewed in Netscape”.
1994 – 1998
Once designers had got a handle on what could be done with the internet, we started to see a rise in innovation. Our monitors supported more colors, which is quite possibly why there was a rainbow of bright, mismatch colors all over the web. It was a time that garish ads and spam used to litter our screens and ‘Times New Roman’ and ‘Courier New’ were the only fonts we knew.
1998 – 2002
Here we started to see an expanded effort on the importance of navigation to help people find what they need from a website, and fast. The design started to become a little more subtle, but many still loved to use block style primary colors.
The good news is that designers started to realize that less was more, and began getting rid of so much text – and replacing it with large images. The page curl and gradients were a popular choice for many to use, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) helped separate content from the presentation.
2002 – 2006
As we moved into the 00’s, animated content using flash pages began to appear all over the web. It’s also important to note that designers started to realize the importance of usability, and functionality became a lot clearer on many sites. Load page times started to speed up which paved the way for video – and the birth of YouTube in 2005.
In addition to YouTube, in this era we also welcomed Facebook, Myspace, WordPress, and Firefox – all innovative platforms in their own right. There was also an important change in hardware with over half of browsers using 4 or 32 bit processors.
2006 – 2010
In this era we saw a huge trend in skeumorphic design as designers started to create realistic graphics on their websites. Long scrolling designs started to take hold which paved the way for more content added to sites, but in a visually-pleasing way.
Google Chrome was launched in 2008 and it is now the most widely used web browser due to it’s fast and reliable performance. The first iPhone also launched and in addition to a flawless design, it also got people thinking about how to create responsive sites for mobile.
2010 – 2014
Switch to modern day and designers have shifted from skeumorphic design, to flat design. You’ll see the likes of Apple and Microsoft using this approach on the iPhone and for Windows 8. With users preferring to access sites using their mobile, responsive design isn’t an option anymore, it’s an integral part of design.
Check out the infographic below for a more detailed look into the history of web design!