How Web Design Has Changed in The Last 20 Years

The first website was published in 1991. It was the creation of Tim Berners Lee.  Macromedia also introduced Flash in 1996. Dynamic design language PHP also gained a lot of popularity with the 1998 PHP release. But that’s about it for the 20th century. Let’s move on to the 21st, when the foundation for web design as we know it was laid.

In the year 2000, Microsoft IE-5 became the first web browser to attain more than 99 percent support for CSS-1. The same year, JS was released by W3C and within two years, all browsers were supporting it. In 2007-2008, mobile access ruled the internet and web 2.0 was born. Now web design is primarily responsive and mobile first. Close to 75% of cell phone users access the email or web from their device.


The middle of the 2000s was when standard website layout and design we now apply was born. Websites were designed with a left bar and top navigation categories. This is because pages with a huge amount of text were not acceptable. Website designers understand that browsers would be more interactive if the information was categorised for these. Scrolling became unpopular as web pages shortened and narrowed. Colours used were multiple, though monochrome and darker shades were more popular.

Websites were also written in Flash due to the fact that HTML was limited, Flash permitted the designers a wider latitude of functioning HTML simply could not. Flash met its end with the advent of the iPhone and iOS which was incompatible with this Macromedia software. During this time, the first content management systems came online, permitting website owners to edit content and make changes to different aspects of the website.


It was during this period that drop down menus became the norm on desktop websites. Web design was more well known in terms of the colours selected and everything on the colour spectrum being used carefully. Widespread design of mobile-first sites and add on websites that were to be managed and designed separately came about. Further magazine type layouts with narrow textured columns rather than a single solid colour background gained in trendiness. Infographics were also stressed on, using digital imagery to organize information.

2016 Onwards

Over the past few years, responsive websites have gained currency, as these change as per the device on which they are viewed. This has replaced mobile site phenomenon of 2010-2013 which is a massively important development. This heralded the end of home pages with lengthy text. Additionally, there were unconventional panels for navigation and massive rotating banners. Information was broken into slides and preset in a more readable format with large sized font headings and titles to stand out, in any browser type.

Additionally, there is emphasis on large-sized, high resolution images described as an end of the fluff that dominated the screens as recently as five years ago. Icons are now everywhere as fonts have become flattened and websites are more streamlined.

As time passes, the aesthetic appeal of the site becomes as important as its functionality. More simple, minimalist websites are on the scene within the coming years. The web design story is a long and evolving one. With growing complexity of technology, website design changes and businesses that want to grow must simply keep up.

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