The Evolution Of Web Design

Since the very first website in 1991 on the world wide web, many advancements have been made in web development design. These early sites, which consist entirely of text, heralded the start of the information technology revolution. While most people are grateful for how far the world wide web consortium has come from the days of “under construction” GIFs and neon backgrounds, some decisions made in the medium’s early days deserve recognition.

This website and others like it have survived the test of time. Enter the website’s domain name and a date range of interest to observe how it has changed. This article details the evolution of web design, beginning with the earliest text-only interfaces and on to today’s most cutting-edge, current designs.


What Is Web Design? An Overview

Web design refers to the steps involved in crafting a website’s aesthetic appearance. As a web designer, your primary responsibilities will be to plan the website’s user experience, create wireframes, organise material and graphics to convey a story and create the user interface.

Making a website appealing requires more than just the addition of visual elements. That is because how anything looks is only half of the story. Ultimately, web design is about ensuring users can do what they want.

Web design will involve a process that includes all these steps and more to get this result: strategy, design, content, development, publication, and maintenance. These elements guarantee that the website will stand out, perform as expected, and deliver visitors a fun and rewarding experience.

To continue would require yet another extensive piece. To sum up, web design is best grasped by considering the entire process, from beginning to end, that goes into creating a beautiful and functional website. The following is a timeline charting the development of various features and practices in website design.

We also have a dedicated blog post on how to design a website for mobile, it is very important to consider mobile web design when creating your website.

Ancient Times, the Early 1990s

We begin our history of designing websites in the early 1990s. A high-speed internet connection did not exist at the time. It was either dial-up modems or nothing at all. Websites had to be developed with slower connections in mind.

What we now call “design layout” was not around back then, so most looked like walls of text. The HTML tags for headings, paragraphs, and links were the language’s most advanced features until the advent of CSS. Typography, images, and navigation were all aspects of the near future of visual design.

Lessons For Today’s Websites

Even though the original purpose of these websites was merely informative, we may still learn from their layout and design. These earlier web pages were smaller in file size and were designed for the slow connections we all still occasionally encounter.

Even with more bandwidth, modern websites only sometimes prioritise the user experience in their design as they did back then. The modern internet can handle media-rich websites, but only up to a certain point.

The Mid-1990s: The Middle Ages

On-site page builders and spacer GIFs plagued web design in its dark years. By the mid-1990s, improvements had been made to the structure and aesthetics of websites. Designers started using table-based layouts to organise content because it gave them more freedom to experiment.

Websites still had a lot of text, but that material could be broken up into columns, rows, and other navigational components. The use of graphics in design also rose rapidly in popularity. Graphical elements of this era in online design include page view statistics, animated text, and dancing GIFs.

Lessons For Today’s Websites

Table-based designs have fallen out of favour because of the many problems they cause, such as excessive markup, slow page loads, and inconsistent aesthetics. However, this breakthrough was crucial to the progress of web design overall: It was the first attempt at a non-chronological page layout.

Because of this, designers had to think about how to show information to the user effectively, and they could now place elements anywhere on a web page. When considering both navigation and content, page structure is still crucial. This factor primarily determines how the user perceives and uses your site. These factors may not have been of paramount importance during the Dark Ages of web design, but they are now.

Late 1990s: The Renaissance

The late 1990s saw a renaissance of sorts. Rebirth. There have been many reinventions of web design, but one of the earliest was Flash. When it was first released in 1996, Flash enabled a range of visual effects that were previously impossible with standard HTML. Virtual visuals and user interactivity finally came together.

Animations, tiled backgrounds, neon colours, 3D buttons, splash pages, and other multimedia were added, yet many of the same design elements from earlier eras remained. With Flash, designers finally started focusing on the user experience rather than just the content, prioritising structure and navigation.

Lessons For Today’s Websites

Although Flash had a profound impact, it would not last forever. Flash is rarely used today and is often considered a significant SEO no-no. It is now standard practice to use techniques like CSS and JavaScript animations or to incorporate videos from online video hosting sites to achieve the same effect.

Early 2000S: The Enlightenment

A strong emphasis on usability and adaptability marked web design in the early 2000s. The Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) programming language was at the forefront of this movement, which enabled designers and developers to keep style rules in files distinct from HTML.

 As a result, web designers and content producers could derive more inspiration from one another’s work than ever before. With CSS, websites are simpler to update (less code and complexity), more adaptable (div tags are separate from one another), and faster to load (lower downloads).

There was a shift away from neons and toward white space due to designers being more aware of the psychological effects of colour. Icons began to have links rather than just text, resolution and pixelation became more pressing issues, and content placement became a central design consideration.

Lessons For Today’s Websites

Since most users scan webpages for relevant information, any site that facilitates this behaviour earns a big thumbs up. Designers with a firm grasp of how people consume information online can account for the fact that most visitors will only read some of the words on a page.

Therefore, modern websites should conform to several best practices, including having content positioned intuitively, having links that are visually highlighted, and having straightforward navigation. Always think about who will be using your product.

Mid- to Late-2000s: The Industrial Revolution

Web 2.0 marks the beginning of the Industrial Revolution of website development. Around the mid to late 2000s, the web started to take its first steps toward its current form. This period’s defining characteristics are:

  • The proliferation of multimedia programs.
  • The development of interactive material.
  • The introduction of social networking sites.

In addition, these alterations substantially governed the process of web design itself. Aesthetic improvements included a more balanced use of colour, more icons, and careful typography. In any case, the focus of design shifted to the content, and the focus of the content shifted to SEO. Websites’ primary purpose has shifted from product promotion to user discovery as the shift to user-centric design has taken hold.

Lessons For Today’s Websites

The importance of SEO has grown alongside the rise of Web 2.0. Although these strategies have evolved, most successful business websites still give SEO a lot of thought. SEO necessitates content, and during this period, content became the primary focus of web design.

Elements such as search engine optimisation, internal and external linking, writing, labelling, and syndication tools like Really Simple Syndication (RSS) fell naturally into place. While these approaches were quickly used for link and keyword jamming, they are no longer helpful and (I hope) have died out.

2010 to Now: The Modern Era

Over two decades after the first website was published, web design has become indispensable to any successful advertising campaign. According to recent studies, half of modern consumers believe a well-designed website is essential to a company’s brand.

Minimalism has become increasingly popular in the modern era, characterised by brief descriptions, flat images (goodbye, 3D buttons! ), muted colour schemes, and large, eye-catching images. In addition, user experience has become more prominent, leading to innovations like unlimited scrolling and single-page layouts.

Concepts That Have Influenced The Evolution Of Web Design

Initial JavaScript Implementation

When it comes to website development, HTML alone has its limitations. The web gained new life with the advent of JavaScript. It turned a non-interactive web page into a dynamic one. JavaScript is used in pop-up windows, your preferred social feed’s auto-refresh feature, and Google’s keyword auto-suggest tool while you type in a question.

Launch of Flash

Adobe Flash allowed developers to incorporate moving images, sound, and text into their websites. These multimedia components were compressed into a file and delivered to the user’s browser. Unfortunately, users could only view these animations with the installed Flash plugin. In 2007, when Apple opted not to incorporate Flash in the first iPhone, Flash’s prominence in web design began to diminish.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) emerged as an improved method of design structure not long after the advent of Flash. Fonts, backgrounds, and pictures can all be customised with CSS. HTML is the markup language, while CSS is the style sheet. They work in tandem to make the web as adaptable as possible.

Getting Companies Online

The meteoric rise of PayPal, the dominant online payment system, may be traced back to that year. The necessity for safe online transactions grew as e-commerce expanded. Online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy helped popularise the concept of shopping from home.

The Emergence Of Mobile device

Since the introduction of the first iPhone, designing for mobile web surfing on the internet explorer has become its unique problem. Adapting meant designers and developers had to consider factors like load time on the separate mobile site and design for a smaller screen.

Do you remember when your Internet usage was limited, and you had to pay by the megabyte? The introduction of column grids was a significant improvement for mobile users. Designers’ use of 960-grid systems and 12-column division saw a significant uptick. The significance of grids in web design will be discussed further in this piece.

Responsive Web Design

To shake up the status quo of online design, Ethan Marcotte proposed the concept of responsive design. This required the designer to create different layouts to accommodate the varying resolutions of iOS, Android, and tablet devices.

The Flat Design

Web and app design formerly trended toward 3D design effects, skeuomorphism, and realism before the advent of flat design. Overuse of gradients, highlights, and shadows was pervasive. Web design evolved into a more minimalist style.

The flat design eliminates the detailed 3D models of objects in favour of two-dimensional colour blocks and flat, geometric shapes. The phenomenon took off after Apple released iOS 7 in 2013. In contrast to Apple’s signature skeuomorphism design aesthetic, the new interface was minimalistic and easy to navigate.

Growth-Driven Web Design

 After 20 years of designing websites, people finally realised that the tried-and-true methods of the past were no longer producing results. In addition, because of that, people are wary of investing heavily in the website process and have less faith in the sector as a whole.

So, How Can Growth-Driven Web Design Address This Issue?

The methodology of Growth-Driven Design is based on hard science. Websites designed to produce qualified leads and convert those leads into customers are the result of careful analysis of user behaviour and the use of accurate data.

In conventional web design, a site is created and left alone until its appearance needs updating, which can take two to five years. Strategy and ongoing enhancement are critical to the Growth-Driven Design process. Over time, this improves the user experience, eliminates obstacles, and leads to more sales.

Steps Of The Growth-Driven Web Design

There are three distinct phases in the Growth-Driven Design process: the Strategy Phase, the Launchpad Phase, and the Continuous Improvement Phase.


The strategy phase comes first in the process and is crucial to its success. This step must be performed correctly for the rest of the procedure to go smoothly. Learning the company’s inner workings entails asking questions such as “What are their goals?” What problems do they have?

Who are their ideal customers, and what are their needs when visiting the site? How exactly will this website accomplish these aims? As part of this process, in-depth interviews with customers and in-depth analysis of user statistics and heat map data will be conducted. At the end of this stage, a Strategy document that spells out your website’s objectives and how you intend to achieve them will come out.


During the launch phase, the original launchpad website is built. Launching a website with a better design and performing better than the present site is the objective; however, this is not the final version. Instead, it will serve as a stepping stone upon which subsequent developments and additions might be constructed. You may begin measuring and optimising the site’s performance almost immediately after it goes online, resulting in substantial time savings over conventional web design practices.

Continuous Improvement

After the initial “launchpad” phase, we enter the “continuous improvement” phase. As its name suggests, this ongoing process sets the growth-driven design apart from conventional “set and forgets” approaches. Incorporating your company’s wish list into the continuous improvement cycle ensures your company’s growth is both sustainable and scalable.

Does The Future Of Website Design Lie In Growth-Driven Design?

With the proliferation of UX measurement tools, it only makes logical for this information to play a pivotal part in the design of user interfaces for websites. After all, contented site visitors become paying customers, and loyal customers become brand evangelists.

The value of satisfied customers’ recommendations cannot be overstated. Trust in corporations is low; therefore, people would rather have recommendations from those they know and trust than a highly compensated salesperson.

The foundation of growth-driven web design is the inbound methodology of attracting, engaging, and pleasing your website visitors. Consistent website enhancements can provide more qualified leads, new clients, and higher sales.

Where Will Websites Go Next?

All of these innovations have been shaped by one thing, and that thing is content. Every layout aspect has been fine-tuned to ensure the user gets quick and easy access to the information they need. Modern web design is defined by openness, flexibility, and ease of use. Considering how far web design has come, it is intriguing to imagine what the next 20 years will bring.


Despite significant technological advances, many modern websites are still designed with the same code used in the 1990s. It’s fascinating to think about where web design is headed in the rapidly evolving digital landscape of the future.

Here at Growth Giants we offer expert web design services, if this sounds like something you may be interested in, be sure to check out the link for more information.

How, for instance, should we redesign websites in light of voice search’s rise in popularity? What will be the prevailing fashion in terms of interior design in ten years? Everything is up for grabs. Web designers may take comfort in the fact that they will participate in shaping the future of this fantastic, ever-evolving innovation no matter where it may take us.

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Dan Grant