Since the Internet hit households in the late ’90s on Windows 95 & 98, we’ve seen web design evolve from an explosion of sights and sounds to the visually pleasing, user experience focused, seamless designs that we enjoy today.
Back in the early days of Internet exploration, user experience wasn’t something that was on the radar. Web design professionals were few and far between and flexible software that maximized interfaces and adapted to the changing e-landscape were still in development.
The year 1996 is seen by many as one of the most important periods for early web design. By this time 1% of the world’s population was online and websites were undergoing major changes. Websites shifted from the first text-based, imageless websites that emerged in 1989, to sites that made use of colourful, more dynamic designs. CSS was also released during this year, allowing for more opportunities in layout and design.
Adding the complexities of CSS to the mix combined with the overall unfamiliarity with designing for the web made early online environments chaotic. Most websites were in complete disarray, cluttered with animated GIFs, tacky text effects and unpleasant, bright coloured backgrounds. Do you remember websites like these?
Thankfully in 1999, web design turned a new leaf with an important shift towards the consideration of user experience. More attention was starting to be paid to colour use, layout, navigation and even grid systems, which greatly impacted usability and paved the way to future trends in web design.
More than two decades since the first website was launched, we’ve seen web design evolve into a whole new world. Content now is less cluttered then ever and designs favour a more minimalist approach. Designers pay close attention to design principals from rules and aesthetics effecting typography and colour distribution to the use of space and imagery. Flat graphics are used widely, replacing the abominable 3-D button (phew!). Mobile and responsive sites are also becoming more and more significant due to the ever-changing nature of our relationships with our phones. Most importantly, UX has come to the forefront of web design, showcasing innovative features like parallax effects, infinite scrolling and single page design.
Take a look at how buttons have evolved over time. Have you seen the old buttons still lurking on any sites today?
We’ve seen it all—watching, learning and engaging with new phases of web design as they emerged. Thankfully, nowadays developers and designers work closely together merging aesthetics with functionality to create seamless user experiences. It’s vital for design agencies to ensure that all graphic elements serve a purpose and work together in order to provide the best user experience available.
It’s crazy to look back and see how drastically web design has changed over the years from the chaotic designs of the ’90s to the visually pleasing and easy-to-use layouts of today. Imagine what websites might look like in the next decade or two! Do you have any web peeves we didn’t show? Comment below to share!