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Web Design-Then and Now

Once upon a time in 1991, the world woke up to something new: a website. It was a simple page of text written by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, explaining to users how to set up a web server and then create their own website. Website design has come a long, long way since then. Let’s have a look at the journey of website design: then, and now.

In the first few years, websites were thought to be useful mainly for information, and design elements were not too important. However, what is interesting is that some trends that were relevant then hold good even today. An example of this is the fact that these websites were lightweight and compact. Owing to very slow internet speeds, they were optimized, meaning the user experience was paid due attention-a fact that is supremely important in modern times too. With lightning-fast internet speeds available, websites can handle all sorts of rich media and beautiful design elements, but heavy graphics and media files can drag the speed down, and spoil the user experience!

Gradually, the structure and layout of websites began to take shape, giving rise to what we call the “look and feel” today. Websites continued to be very verbose, but presentation elements were also considered. This was marked first by the use of table-based templates, which meant that people could make their websites look more organized, and then use individual creativity and flexibility. However, the obvious demerits of this structure were slow loading times and high degree of markups, meaning that the ease of content and access to the user could both be affected.
The Flash era then came into being, and this one lasted for a long time. Everybody was excited by the sheer number of possibilities that could now be explored with animation, graphics, background images, vibrant colors in navigation, and so on. Elements such as 3-D buttons and tiled imagery gained a lot of popularity. The use of multimedia content was increased by a large percentage across most websites. Unfortunately, that proved detrimental, as we now know, since Flash in websites proves to be one of the biggest hurdles to good practices in website promotion. Today, we have a great alternative to Flash in the form of HTML 5, which can be effectively utilized to produce very similar results.

The next few years witnessed a rising voice of support for CSS. This simplified things for both the designer as well as the developer, as CSS allowed the content and design aspects to be separated, lending greater flexibility and ease of content updating. The “less is more” motto also found wide favor, leading to increased use of white spaces, clean, uncluttered image and text presentation and more muted colors. Far more importance was now given to preserving functionality, clarity and resolution of images and improving the whole user experience.

Some of the websites designed today are a treat to the senses. Modern, contemporary use of spaces, beautifully optimized, information-rich yet appealingly presented text, and true attention to typography are just some of the contributing factors. Website design is now intuitive, user-friendly, enticing, and clever. The explosive mobile era has added a whole new dimension through the concept of responsive design, where the user actually gets to define the quality of his experience!

We’re now truly coming of age, and the next two decades, like the last two ones, promise to bring a lot more innovation!


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