A Brief History of Website Design

The internet has been heralded as the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire. In order to discuss the history of website design it is integral to touch upon the brief history of the internet. Of course it has been a dynamic process, President Bill Clinton summarised it well in 1996 when he said:

“When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web…. Now even my cat has its own page”

The history of the internet is far shorter than many would think; The World Wide Web was born throughout 1991-1993, during the creation of Tim Berners-Lee’s global hypertext project. This was designed to allow people to work together through sharing knowledge and documents. The internet did exist before this but merely as a form of basic communication, to transfer information from one computer to another, mostly utilised by the military, scientists and doctors.

Of course everything changed in 1993 with the introduction of the Mosaic, a free browser program created by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina which was the first commercial browser to allow the public access to online content; a browser credited with popularising the World Wide Web. Still at that moment in time early web designers could only produce limited layouts which consisted of text and little or no graphics.

Mosaic web-browser – the world’s first internet browser

In 1995 there were a couple of introductions that were paramount in the evolution of website design: Microsoft released Internet Explorer and Flash was introduced. Flash added a breath of fresh air to the landscape of web design; it allowed designers to introduce animations and special effects to their sites. Microsoft’s introduction of their first competitive browser (internet explorer 1), also really bought website design into its own. This was the first browser to support style sheets, which designers utilised to create multi-column layouts that were not usually available.

The creation of web layouts was also improved considerably with the introduction of CSS a formatting and presentation tool with layouts, colours and fonts; CSS acted to reduce the complexity of structuring content.

Today we have over 2 billion internet users on the planet and over 240 million websites online. As someone who works in website design in London, I cannot emphasise enough how important website design has become – the UK in particular are exposed to more online content than the rest of Europe, not only are there more adults online but  they spend an average of two hours longer browsing the web. Given the number of websites competing online, it is the careful design of your webpage that would give it a fighting chance of getting noticed and standing out.