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The History of Website Design​

Can you imagine what the very first website looked like? It was nothing like what we have today. No images. No CSS. No parallax designs. Though there is much more we can do with website design today, it is fun to take a look back at where we came from. So, that is exactly what we are going to do look at how website design started and how we got to the point where we can do keywords in the backend such as “website design Doncaster” or “Doncaster web” to name a couple of irrelevant ones.


1990-1994 – These exciting but primitive early days of the web see a focus on plain text websites, with images and text only appearing alongside each other for the first time in 1993


Design Trends:

Web Safe Colours: Initially only 16 colours are supported by monitors

Text Heavy Websites: Early browsers only support text – it wasn’t until 1993 before images are supported



1990: WorldWideWeb – The First Web Browser

1993: Mosaic – The first browser to display text and images together, and the first to adopt the layout still favoured by today’s browsers.

1994: Netscape Navigator – Supports on the fly page loading. A browser so powerful that many websites carried the motif “Best if viewed in Netscape”


What happened in this era?

1990: HTML is born – HTML is a coded language which can be read by web browsers, and composed into web pages

1991: The first website goes live!

1994: Worldwide Web Consortium established – Aims to implement a set of core principles and components so the web can be accessed consistently by all.


1994 – 1998 – This era sees an explosion of innovation which brings new, exciting possibilities to web designers. These new design “toys” are used perhaps a little too liberally, which results in some design work that looks pretty ugly to the modern viewer


Design Trends:

Web Safe Colours: Grows to 256 colours

Bright, ugly colours: Or incredibly difficult to look at colours!

Garish Ads: As the internet grows in popularity, businesses and individuals look to it as an advertising tool. Many seek to visually catch the reader’s attention with garish, flashing ads.

Web safe fonts: Proliferation of simple serif fonts like Times New Roman and Courier New

Colourful Buttons: Gives the website a 3D feel.



1994: Opera Browser 1.0 – Released as a research project

1995: Internet Explorer 1 and Internet Explorer 2 were both released

1996: Internet Explorer 3 was launched! – IE3 supported multimedia, Java applets, ActiveX controls and add ons like internet mail, It ate away at Netscape’s market dominance to become the web’s most popular browser for many years.

1996: Netscape Navigator 3 – At one point, nearly 90% of internet users were browsing via Netscape Navigator 3.


What happened in this era?

1995: PHP (Personal Home Page) released – Made new, simple, dynamic web applications such as guestbooks and web forms possible

1995: New programming language called Ruby is launched

1995: Macromedia Shockwave is created and adds animation and interactivity to the web it is later acquired by Adobe

1995: Javascript was released as part of Netscape Navigator 2.0B3

1996: CCS (Cascading Style Sheets) were released – Brought exciting new layout and design possibilities 1% of the world’s population were now online.

1996: Active Server Pages (ASP) were released via Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack

1996: Multimedia and Software Platform Flash is launched – It was used to create vector graphics, animation games and applications

1997: Introduction of HTML 4.0 – Internationalises the web, defining a Universal Character, set to support use worldwide

1997: 100 Million internet users now online


1998 – 2002 – As websites continued to expand their content offering, there is a renewed focus on how to catalogue and access this. We see a growing emphasis on menus and navigation. Design is generally becoming a bit subtler but there is still an over reliance on blocky primary colours.


Design Trends

Growing emphasis on menus and navigation

Content being slowly scaled back – less text on one screen, more mini pages

Dark and block colour backgrounds became very popular



1999: Internet Explorer 5.0

2001: Internet Explorer 6


What happened in this era?

Google launches. Over the coming years, it redefines search and branches into countless other industries.

CSS2 was released


2002 – 2006 – Further innovation gives designers unprecedented power to integrate animated content into their websites. Splash pages and Flash intro pages are in fashion, but there’s also an increasing emphasis on readability and functionality. Rapidly increasing connection speeds improve design options and bring video content to the fore – culminating in the creation of YouTube in 2005


Design Trends

Flash Animation Intro Pages

Increasing emphasis on readability and functionality

Animated content subtly integrating into websites

Splash Pages



2004: Firefox 1.0 – An open source challenger to the ubiquitous Internet Explorer which is still incredibly popular


What happened in this era?

2003: Wordpress, an open source blogging and content management system, was launched

2003: Social Media Platform Myspace is launched

2003: Social Media Platform Facebook is launched

2005: Video streaming site YouTube launches. It’s bought by Google in 2006


2006 – 2010 – Skeumorphic design – that is, the art of making things appear like their real-world counterparts – is in vogue for much of this period. Video continues its rise as an online medium.


Design Trends

Long scrolling designs

Stock Photography

Drop Shadow and Skeumorphism



2007: Mobile Safari, also known as the first mobile browser was launched

2008: Google Chrome launches and becomes an instant success story – it is now the most widely used browser on the planet. Minimalist, fast and fashionable!


What happened in this era?

2007: First iPhone launches redefining our relationships with our phones. Responsive website design, therefore, becomes more relevant.

2008: First working draft of HTML5


2010 – 2014 – The biggest changes in this period revolved around a shift towards a flat design – a minimalist approach with simple elements, typography and flat colours. An astronomical rise in mobile use means responsive design is now a business imperative. Designers have more design options than ever.


Design Trends

Flat design

Responsive Design

Javascript Animations

Animated GIFs




2010: The browser market is now pretty much cornered by the major players – Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Opera.

2010: Between 2010 and 2014, Google release over 30 different Chrome updates, Firefox over 20, while Internet Explorer and Safari release less frequent updates.


What happened in this era?

2011: CSS3 is released

2011: 1 Billion websites are now online, meaning there is unprecedented freedom of design

2013: 51% of US adults now bank online

2014: The internet is 25 years old


So, that was my blog on some of the past 27 years of having the internet, plenty has happened and plenty is still happening in the world of website design, so what do you think the next big step is? Let me know in the comments below!


Limitless Digital - SEO Specialists

Doncaster, Yorkshire web site design and content marketing services
New for Yorkshire - web site design company in Doncaster

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