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What Did Web Design Used To Be Like?

Web design has been around for as long as websites have themselves. At the time of the first website, the only form of web design available was HTML code, which is essentially the backbone of the world wide web. Web design has grown and evolved over time, from HTML, to Adobe Dreamweaver, WordPress, etc. In part 1 of this 3-part blog series, we’ll go over the history of web design and how it got to where it is today.



Did you know? This is the first ever website, created in 1991! However, it’s not the first version of the website but rather it’s 1992 copy.


Where Did Web Design Start?

web design evolution timeline

Web design started with the first website, but it wasn’t as colourful and aesthetic as it is today. When the first website was created, the only way to design it was through the building block of the entire World Wide Web itself, HTML. HTML only allowed very basic design, with just plain text and hyperlinks. You could also incorporate images, but you were limited when it came to resizing and positioning them. It also simply wasn’t interactive and dynamic, unlike websites today. Despite these limitations and lack of options, it was quite revolutionary, as evidenced by the modern day.

As HTML got updated alongside the introduction of CSS, web design grew. CSS allowed more design freedom since it described how HTML should be displayed. CSS, just like HTML, was quite revolutionary as it allowed you to seperate the presentation of a website from it’s structure. You could change how a site looked, without changing/shifting the structure. On top of this, CSS provided a lot more options when it came to design, as well as providing consistent styling, animations and generally more dynamic websites. CSS is still used quite often to day because it allows you to design with more specificity, achieving what you otherwise couldn’t. Of course, CSS got updated over time just as HTML was.

Then came along Dreamweaver, a website editor that allowed you to switch between text and WYSIWYG. After this, web design grew more and more until better Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress were introduced in 2003. WordPress is the current most popular CMS. When WordPress was first introduced, you could only write and design in the backend of a site but it offered various themes and templates as well as additional customisation through plugins.

Over the following years, WordPress kept up with the changes to web design from responsive design (designing for multiple screens at once) to material design, which Google introduced in 2014. Material design is a design language that focused a lot more on animations, lighting, depth and simple, classic design principles.

Websites And SEO

SEO was introduced in 1997 and massively impacted websites, and therefore web design, massively. SEO determined where websites would show in search engine results pages. This was huge for websites like Amazon, which debuted in 1995, because they were using the world wide web to sell. SEO impacted web design via ranking factors, like keyword incorporation. Web designers began including target keywords in headings and copy in order to rank higher, gain more traffic and get that traffic to complete a desired action.

Another ranking factor that affected web design was content quality as this pushed designers to improve the quality of their work and of the website in general. Content quality being a ranking factor meant content had to provide value and be relevant to the targeted keyword. The content also had to answer the users query effectively in order to be ranked higher. The focus on users meant their experience was paramount and captivating designs helped keep users on a site massively.

Final Thoughts

So, web design has evolved and grown a lot over time. From HTML to CSS to CMSs, web design has gotten easier with more options and customisability. The introduction of CSS brought a new level of control over presentation and layout, allowing designers to craft engaging user experiences. As CMSs like WordPress emerged, web design became accessible to a broader audience, empowering individuals and businesses to create and manage their online presence.


Join us for Part 2: “The State of Web Design Today” next week!

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