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Evolution of Web Design

Maryam Taheri March 31, 2021 · 5 min read

Can you imagine a world without the internet? Today, I use my phone, tablet, and computer to access the web to search for useful information, complete intricate and simple tasks, find entertaining videos and movies, browse items for sale and purchase a variety of goods, pay bills and manage my finances, and engage in conversations with my friends and family. While I can remember a world before the internet took over my life, it’s hard for me to imagine a world without the internet. I rely on the internet for so many things, it’s completely foreign to me to even imagine a world where I don’t conduct research on the internet, find out what’s going on in the world, or stay in touch with my friends. It seems like the internet makes getting things done much easier, simpler, and faster. The internet looks completely different today than it did when the first websites went online, and it’s amazing how much the web has changed. Designers are constantly coming up with new and cool ways to change the way we interact with the internet. Before we check out the latest trends in web design, let’s take a look back at the evolution of web design starting with the birth of the internet.
Birth of the Internet

The development of the internet began in the 1950s, with basic discussions of social interactions connected through networks. In the early 1960s, collaborative work between the University of California in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, the Stanford Research Institute, and University of Utah fostered the creation of ARPANet. ARPANet allowed researchers at UCLA to send a message over a series of interconnected networks to researchers at the Stanford Research Institute. It was simply amazing, and shortly after that the internet was born. In 1982, the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was created and standardized, which provided people general guidelines or how data should be transmitted, received, and packaged across the internet. TCP/IP, is basically a manual for how to use the internet, and in the mid-1990s we were introduced to the first web browser (the WWW) by Tim Berners-Lee. Since then, the internet has continued to change and evolve, and so has web design.
Early 1990s

The internet was just born in the 1990s, and so, most sites were strictly text based with first generation HTML. On the WWW only simple text pages could be viewed, however, this quickly changed to incorporate simple images. The 1990s showed us a period of simple websites that featured basic text, it wasn’t anything fancy but it provided people with an ease they had never experienced before. Check out some popular websites and how they looked in the 1990s. You’ll see that even in a matter of a few years websites quickly have more advanced features and images.
The First Web Page (WWW) in 1992
The White House in 1994


Yahoo! in 1996


Altavista in 1996


Mid to Late 90s
While text was still the dominating feature of websites in the mid to late 90s, we began to see designers add some text effects. Designers made text roll across your screen, move, and tried to make text stand out using elements like Flash. We started to see websites with colored text, and scroll bars. In addition, many websites started showing hit counters at the bottom of their screen.
By the late 90s everyone wanted to be on the internet, and simply having a website was a major thing for a company. Being on the WWW made you really stand out and make a huge impact. While websites were still pretty basic, by the late 90s we started hearing music being played on sites, and text change color when clicked on.
Check out some of these websites from the mid to late 90s featuring more color with text:
Excite in 1998

New York Times in 1996
In addition, from the mid-to-late 90s we began to see table-based design featured on websites, and the first online page builders. Everyone wanted to be on the web, and started doing anything they could to stand out and make an impact. Tables made it possible to create websites with multiple columns and sections, allowing for more dynamic layouts that weren’t simply lines of text.
Google in 1998
Wired in 1997
CNET in 1996
As I mentioned above, page builders like Angelfire and Geocities gained prominence. These sites allowed people to interact more with the internet and to get involved in the WWW. Angelfire and Geocities made getting on the internet easier than ever.
Early 2000s
Around the year 2000, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) became more and more popular. They allowed people to change and alter a variety of features of websites like background color, text size and text style in code. Designers wouldn’t have to create every single page on it’s own anymore,  instead they could write code that would hold true for each page within their website.
MSN in 2000
10years_olddesign2 in 2000
BBC in 2000
Mid to Late 2000s
The most prominent design elements at this point showcased Javascript. Although Javascript had been around since the mid-90s it did not gain prominence until the mid-2000s. Websites featured drop-down menus, advanced navigation pages, and web forms thanked to Javascript. In addition, we saw the advent of the semantic web movement and xml coding.
Yahoo! in 2002
AltaVista in 2008
Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 11.41.05 AM
MSN in 2008
Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 11.42.34 AM
BBC in 2008
Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 11.44.18 AM
The Present
The internet has definitely changed a lot since the 1990s, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. Presently we are seeing trends like responsive web design, parallax, and flat design. If you want to learn more about the present trends check out the post 2013 Web Design Trends:

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About the Author
Maryam Taheri

I'm a recent graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Biology and a passion for the creative arts. I love building websites, trying new things, and I have a passion for social media.

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