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A Brief History of Website Design

A brief history of website design and how it has changed the way we use the internet! Learn about the timeline of essential technologies!
Jolee Fu

Jolee Fu

Imperium Marketing Intern
Jolee Fu

Jolee Fu

Imperium Marketing Intern

Web Design has changed dramatically since its inception back in the 1990’s. Here we will discuss a brief history of website design over the last 30 years, examining how web design evolved into today’s digital environment.

1991 – The First Website Design

The forefather of web design is Tim Berners-Lee after publishing the first ever website in August of 1991. The idea for the project began in 1989 and it had a simple text-based web design. The initial versions of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) provided early websites a basic content structure: headings, paragraphs, and links. 

1992 – The First Website Design to Incorporate an Image

As the initial web designs had a text-only layout, it lacked any of the visual elements until 1992. Berners-Lee’s team rolled out an HTML update, which could support photos. So, they tested a photo of the pop parody group, Les Horribles Cernettes. It became the first photo on the internet. Eventually, the implementation of images became a breakthrough in web design.

1995 – The Introduction of JavaScript

Also, since 1995, JavaScript has become arguably the world’s most important web programming language. It helped automate behaviours in their web design, bringing pop-up and drop-down menus, allowing advanced navigation techniques. Overall, it is used to control the behavior of the different elements.

1996- The Introduction of Flash

When Flash emerged in 1996, web design has been re-imagined to another level, allowing more creativity for the user interface. It introduced colour, buttons, and icons. It created more dynamic content by integrating animation, video, and audio.

1997 – The Introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

In 1997, Hakon Wium Lie and Bert Bos created the Cascading Style Sheets, which is a programming software that allows the content (HTML) to be separated from the visual elements (the layouts, colours, and font) for the very first time. As a result, web designers had more flexibility and control of the aesthetics of a website than ever before. 

2003 – The World’s Most Popular Content Management System to Date – WordPress

Upon the first release of WordPress in 2003, the creation of blog posts had very little visual personalization, creating a simple, static layout. Then, WordPress had introduced plug-ins for further personalization, such as themes that could allow users to change the aesthetics without altering the content. As of now, WordPress is the world’s leading Content Management System, offering both a free blogging platform (WordPress.com) and open-source software for designers (WordPress.org). 

2004 – The Start of Social Media – MySpace

After the launch, MySpace became the first big social networking service in the world, reaching more than 100 million users per month. The platform permitted customization with the user’s layout through simple HTML programming. The web design followed the ‘more is more’ aesthetic, filling in image-heavy layouts.

2007 – The Beginning of Mobile Browsing

The launch of the first iPhone in 2007 was revolutionary. It provided a way to access the web over the phone. Responsive design became the norm for websites, with the 960-grid systems and 12-column division, addressing the demand for smartphone browsing. Web designers have to optimize for hand-held devices, as Google’s algorithm prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in the search results.

In this era, web design has an increasing focus on user experience, adaptability, and accessibility. Our internet today still has some limits. For example, large media files and heavy graphic design can contribute to high bounce rates when load speeds are slow. 

If you are curious, there is a web design museum that exhibits over 1,600 websites to demonstrate the trends. You can find previous web designs of youtube, google, and yahoo. Also, there is an article on the latest web design trends here

That is it for our brief history of website design! Check out our web design services here. We will be happy to help you out!

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