Web Design History: From The Beginning

Posted in Web Design • Posted on 12 Comments

The history of the Internet is short, but so much has changed within that time. It has radically changed how we live our lives. More importantly, the internet has created thousands of jobs that did not exist a decade ago. These include jobs in SEO marketing, online telemarketing, freelance writing, blogging and of course, in web design.

Although web design has only been with us in the past few decades, it has become a large part of our lives. We couldn’t imagine the internet without its animated graphics, fancy text, cool backgrounds, and background music. How did all these come to be?

Internet and Web Design’s Early Beginnings

It is said that the first web site published in the World Wide Web history is sometime in August of 1981. That was some 30 years ago, but the Internet was born in the sixties. It wasn’t as fast as it is today, but it was very efficient in transferring information from one computer to another. Because of its reliability, the internet was used by the military, scientists, educators, doctors and the government for efficient transfer of information within the group. Back then the internet required a computer, a modem and a telephone line.

In the 1990s Mosaic was introduced to the public, which was a free browser program. Mosaic was the first commercial browser that allowed the public access to online content. It was designed by Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina, and originally ran on the Unix system. By 1994 the Mosaic web browser became available to other OS such as Mac, Windows and Amiga OS.

Mosaic Web Browser, the first web browser in internet history (Image by Computer History)

During the 90s, internet connected the world through telephone lines. Documents were viewed in HTML,  where everyone can view and access it if they are online. These sites are referred to as first generation sites, they had lots of text, limited colors and graphics with linear layout. It was created for functional communication, and not to entertain users. Since dial-up modems are relatively slow it was impractical to bombard users with lots of graphics–loading would take forever.

Thus, web sites in the first generation were created to maximize loading time for faster data transfer through the slow dial-up modems in the hey day.

HTML – First Generation

The Hypertext concept was created by Ted Nelson during the 60s, but it was used only several decades after. In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet and used the hypertext coding language. The World Wide Web came into being in 1994. HTML was the only coding language for web design back then, and back then there wasn’t much freedom when it comes to design.

Because of this, the ‘early web designers’ could only create simple layouts, text, tables and links with little or no graphics. Consider this as the ‘Bronze Age’ of Web Design. Even if web sites were not design-centered back then, developers were already thinking about how they can make their sites more visually appealing.

The W3C or World Wide Web Consortium was created to prevent large companies from monopolizing web design code. If only one company is able to control web coding and design, the story of internet and web design would have been different. Until now, W3C is still responsible for governing the coding techniques, rules and guidelines up to this day. The W3C also updates web designers to any changes they will make. It is important for designers to follow the guidelines set by the body so that the site will work cohesively in search engines and browsers without errors.

W3C sets the web design and coding standards.

After Mosaic, the Netscape web browser soon followed, the browser was released on November of 1994. It wasn’t long before it became the leading browser on the web. It began creating its own tags, and the World Wide Web followed suit.

Second Generation

It was during 1992 to 1994 that other developers started adding their own bits of HTML codes. Thus to prevent confusion of the ever-increasing HTML 1 tags, the HTML 2 was born. The internet is faster now, and web designers are now given more HTML capabilities. Coding has become a bit more complicated, and graphics become more frequent.

Third Generation

In 1995, more HTML tags have emerged and HTML 3 was born. Designers now have an option to use HTML B tables and style sheets. That same year, Microsoft released their own browser, Internet Explorer.

During this time, designers have more freedom to customize and beautify their web design. Third generation web sites can now have colorful or patterned backgrounds. They also had animated images, thanks to .gif. Flash is also introduced, which is a fresh breath of air. It changed the whole landscape of web design, from static to dynamic.

Today’s Modern Web Design: 4th Generation Web Sites

Today’s web sites are classified in the fourth generation. Aside from HTML, web designers can play with other coding tools such as JavaScript, Flash, XML, CSS, etc.

Parasol Island is an interactive website with video, games, sound & graphics

HTML 5 is the 5th revision of the HTML language, and this is the one currently used now. HTML is the solution to most problems and syntax errors found in HTML 4 and XHTML 1.1. HTML 5 attempts to define a markup language for both HTML & XHTML syntax.

HTML 5 also added plenty of new syntax features, including the integration of SVG content, and adding <video>, <audio> & <canvas>. This means it is now easier to add multimedia content without any more plug-ins, etc. Other elements designed to improve the semantic document content are: <header>, <article>, <section>, etc.

Amazing website using HTML 5 (Digital Hands)

Because of the remarkable additions, the need for other plugins such as videos, flash and Java is greatly reduced. HTML is improving and moving towards every direction. HTML5 is compatible with various web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Mobile Web Design

It is estimated that majority of the population will be using smart phones by 2012, with international sales of 2.5 billion phones from 2010-2015. This means that mobile web use will also increase 100%, maybe more. It’s time for companies to invest in mobile design, to make sure their websites are mobile web-friendly.

Mobile web simply makes everything more convenient. Mobile web design answers the two keys to better web experience: usability and availability. As it goes along the smartphone trend, mobile web design allows content to load faster. Developers think outside the box by providing applications and games that will be applicable to the iPhone, Blackberry or Android.

Mobile web design is about simplification. Everything is simplified to fit a smaller screen. Navigation is easier, design is simpler, and using Flash is currently not possible.

Image by Gizmodo

No two web sites are alike. As a result of immense technology advancements, web designers can now experiment with videos, graphics, images, animation and even games. Aside from that, developers must also think about SEO marketing to make sure their web site appears on the top pages of search engines. These elements are all implemented into the web design, to make it fun and interactive. Web design is no longer as a mere communication tool. The internet is now an arena for entertainment with boundless capabilities.

And for our web designers, the internet is an ever-expanding playground.

52 Written ArticlesWebsite

Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.

12 Comments Best Comments First
  • Simon Day

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 17:34

    5

    It’s funny how we’ve come full circle but some things never change.

    Back in the 90’s I was coding very basic, clear and reduced grahic web sites. With 2,400 baud modems anything more than a logo and text would take forever to load. now fast foward 15 years and we’re creating the same kind of thing for web apps (albeit a lot smarter designs!).

    In the late 90’s I was itching to embrace CSS fully but IE was holding me back. Now I’m itching to fully embrace HTML5 and CSS3 but IE is still holding me back.

    Over my career I’ve had to design for all proper browsers and then fix for IE. Now with webapps it seems we code for proper phones and fix for windows phones.

    It’s a funny old World in the web design community…

    Thanks Microsoft for making my life a living hell some of the time…but keeping me in a job all of the time because of it!

    +2
  • Martin Varesio

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 13:59

    3

    As it goes along the smartphone trend, mobile web design allows content to load faster!!

    +2
  • Gavin

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 16:03

    4

    wow, excellent write up! I got well excited when I saw the title of this post and I found out some stuff I never knew before. I’ll certainly be posting this link about!

    +1
  • Rick Gray

    Sunday, August 7th, 2011 02:03

    10

    There are so many factual errors in just this excerpt that this whole article is worthless:
    “The Hypertext concept was created by Ted Nelson during the 60s, but it was used only several decades after. In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet and used the hypertext coding language. The World Wide Web came into being in 1994. HTML was the only coding language for web design back then, and back then there wasn’t much freedom when it comes to design.”

    You may want to see for some correct information.

    +1
    • Rachel Arandilla

      Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 04:04

      11

      Check your sources as well. I think you may have been confused.

      Tim Berners-Lee credited for his invention of the World Wide Web, making the first proposal for it in March 1989.
      Ted Nelson created the Hypertext concept way earlier, on 1963 and published it on 1965.
      The internet existed long before, but it was used by private and government institutions. It was only made public in two decades after, in the nineties, and then it was on 1994 that Tim Berners-Lee created and became director of W3C.

      +2
  • donnie

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 17:39

    1

    HTML has been a wonderful evolution. The first site I built (wasn’t much design back then) used HTML 2 standard. Then HTML 3 came along pretty quickly it seemed, and I realized that there could be some money to be made here. Look where we are today. Imagine what the next 10 years will be like.

    0
  • Aslam

    Thursday, July 28th, 2011 13:46

    9

    The old yahoo website screen shot is a nostalgic treat to watch. Really internet has come of age, and so has the web development techniques right from the First Generation to the Mobile Web Design era.

    0
  • Mario

    Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 01:49

    7

    I remember the old sites back in the 90’s. Man it was slow to see a page with a few pics with my 14.4 kbps connection….

    0
    • Tom

      Friday, September 9th, 2011 09:15

      12

      Im in Shanghai at the moment…. the nostalgic slow internet is still out here. took me about 5 min. to open this page. so if you ever want to go back in time :)

      0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 02:39

      6

      And when it’s a dial-up connection, when someone calls the home phone you get disconnected. haha

      0
      • Rachel Arandilla

        Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 07:51

        8

        and i can never forget the ‘dial up connection sound’. the whirring sound that meant you have successfully connected always excited me, because that was often so rare.. PLDT vibe days. :0

        +1
  • Salman Saeed

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 12:02

    2

    Nice write up! :)
    Enjoyed it.

    -1
  • Rick Gray

    Sunday, August 7th, 2011 02:03

    10

    There are so many factual errors in just this excerpt that this whole article is worthless:
    “The Hypertext concept was created by Ted Nelson during the 60s, but it was used only several decades after. In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet and used the hypertext coding language. The World Wide Web came into being in 1994. HTML was the only coding language for web design back then, and back then there wasn’t much freedom when it comes to design.”

    You may want to see for some correct information.

    +1
    • Rachel Arandilla

      Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 04:04

      11

      Check your sources as well. I think you may have been confused.

      Tim Berners-Lee credited for his invention of the World Wide Web, making the first proposal for it in March 1989.
      Ted Nelson created the Hypertext concept way earlier, on 1963 and published it on 1965.
      The internet existed long before, but it was used by private and government institutions. It was only made public in two decades after, in the nineties, and then it was on 1994 that Tim Berners-Lee created and became director of W3C.

      +2
  • Aslam

    Thursday, July 28th, 2011 13:46

    9

    The old yahoo website screen shot is a nostalgic treat to watch. Really internet has come of age, and so has the web development techniques right from the First Generation to the Mobile Web Design era.

    0
  • Mario

    Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 01:49

    7

    I remember the old sites back in the 90’s. Man it was slow to see a page with a few pics with my 14.4 kbps connection….

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 02:39

      6

      And when it’s a dial-up connection, when someone calls the home phone you get disconnected. haha

      0
      • Rachel Arandilla

        Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 07:51

        8

        and i can never forget the ‘dial up connection sound’. the whirring sound that meant you have successfully connected always excited me, because that was often so rare.. PLDT vibe days. :0

        +1
    • Tom

      Friday, September 9th, 2011 09:15

      12

      Im in Shanghai at the moment…. the nostalgic slow internet is still out here. took me about 5 min. to open this page. so if you ever want to go back in time :)

      0
  • Simon Day

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 17:34

    5

    It’s funny how we’ve come full circle but some things never change.

    Back in the 90’s I was coding very basic, clear and reduced grahic web sites. With 2,400 baud modems anything more than a logo and text would take forever to load. now fast foward 15 years and we’re creating the same kind of thing for web apps (albeit a lot smarter designs!).

    In the late 90’s I was itching to embrace CSS fully but IE was holding me back. Now I’m itching to fully embrace HTML5 and CSS3 but IE is still holding me back.

    Over my career I’ve had to design for all proper browsers and then fix for IE. Now with webapps it seems we code for proper phones and fix for windows phones.

    It’s a funny old World in the web design community…

    Thanks Microsoft for making my life a living hell some of the time…but keeping me in a job all of the time because of it!

    +2
  • Gavin

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 16:03

    4

    wow, excellent write up! I got well excited when I saw the title of this post and I found out some stuff I never knew before. I’ll certainly be posting this link about!

    +1
  • Martin Varesio

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 13:59

    3

    As it goes along the smartphone trend, mobile web design allows content to load faster!!

    +2
  • Salman Saeed

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 12:02

    2

    Nice write up! :)
    Enjoyed it.

    -1
  • donnie

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 17:39

    1

    HTML has been a wonderful evolution. The first site I built (wasn’t much design back then) used HTML 2 standard. Then HTML 3 came along pretty quickly it seemed, and I realized that there could be some money to be made here. Look where we are today. Imagine what the next 10 years will be like.

    0

Comments are closed.

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