The history of website design – part one

July 07, 2022

Website design has certainly come a long way. Gone are the simple designs and basic functionality of the websites of yesteryear. The web platforms of today balance more intuitive and complex functionality with clean, cutting edge design to ensure an even simpler way to browse the net and find the products or service you’ve been searching for. But how did we get here?

As a leading provider of beautifully designed websites, and the digital marketing and SEO services that put them out there to the people who matter, we make it our mission to keep up to date with the latest web design trends. To look forward however, you also have to appreciate the past.

In this fascinating three-part series, we’re taking a closer look at the history of website design from past to present.

1991 – The start of something special

Websites have had some degree of design since the very beginning of the World Wide Web. With the net officially announced to the public in summer 1991, the first inklings of website design could be seen.

Primarily text-based with just a splash of colour, these early websites were limited in their structure, using tables to provide a rather unimaginative format. It didn’t take long for people to begin dreaming about what could be and with this HTML began to evolve.

1993 – Introducing the humble search engine

In 1993, search was introduced to the web, with ALIWEB! being the very first of its kind. With the very same mission as search engines of today – to help browsers find the information they needed – website design had to change. ALIWEB! expanded the use of colour in website design to help draw the eye to more important elements on the page.

It was during this year that the landing page ‘landed’, with MTV being the first website to use landing pages and spruce up the more basic idea of website design.

1994 – The first advertisements arrive

The internet and advertising go hand-in-hand, but it wasn’t until 1994 that webmasters could add advertisements (in their most basic form) to their web pages. The design of ads and the surrounding page improved dramatically, and as people got more creative, advertising on the web boomed.

The rise of ads saw the creation of the pop up window, which was made possible by the invention of JavaScript, a programming language still going strong today.

1996 – The internet reaches 36 million users worldwide

As more and more people turned to the internet for answers, web design trends got more sophisticated. In 1996, websites offered a better balance of text, images and advertisements, and could even incorporate animations thanks to the emergence of Flash.

1998 – Google hath cometh and so did CSS!

Google was launched in 1998, which meant the earlier link-heavy search engines quickly paled into insignificance. Websites followed suit by favouring the same minimalistic look.

Towards the close of this decade, CSS came onto the scene and with it brought increased flexibility and a much needed speed boost to the web.

Want to know what happens next? Stay tuned for our next instalment of the history of website design!