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How Has Website Design Changed Over Time? A Detailed History

How Has Website Design Changed Over Time? A Detailed History

Remember the days when websites were entirely text-based? With minimal designs and images, sites speak only for headings and paragraphs. Website makers don't know what a high-speed internet connection is. Websites without a ‘design layout' more like a wall of text can only work with less-than-stellar internet speed. 

Technology keeps booming, and it eventually changes attitudes and preferences. The techniques and trends that were productive are now considered outdated. Digital marketing also evolves and demands more willingness and adaptation to the latest trends. The cutting-edge technology has also radically changed the website landscape. More technological advancements have led to a massive shift in website design trends. 

Nowadays, we see a lot of websites that are visually attractive enough to get a click. IKONIC, a software and web development company in America, sets an example of an interactive and practical website design for scaling its business to new heights. 

Today, web designers have a vast array of tools and technologies. They can create sophisticated designs that are responsive, interactive, and user-friendly. The team at Inkbot Design is committed to bringing the relevant information about websites that evolved. Dig deep into how web design grew from heavy-text screens to the modern, sleek designs we see today. 

Website Design: The Early Period (1990-1998)

The website design timeline starts in the early 90s. The age before that was considered the dark age for websites because there were fewer or no technological innovations. A dark pixel screen designed with tables and symbols was the only thing on the website's name. Then, we all stepped into the world of website design development and observed tremendous changes. 

Let's explore those happenings in detail!

1990 – First Web Browser introduced 

It all started when Tim Berner Lee created the World Wide Web (WWW), the first-ever web browser in history. It came with the name of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for editing web pages. The browser was later replaced with NEXUS to avoid confusion with the WWW. 

1991 – First Website Launched

The creator of WWW also launched the first website. Unfortunately, the original website was not preserved until today, and the address link shows only its 1992 copy. He coded his CERN site with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). Assigning data into columns and rows was the primary function of HTML's <table>. A plain-texted site came into view without images, colour blocks, and graphics. Not what we consider “web design” today. The initial version of HTML supported the very basic content structure such as headings( <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc), and paragraphs (<p>). Tables (<table>) and images (<img>) were added to HTML in subsequent versions. 

First Ever Website

1993 – Search Engine Introduced

The search was introduced with ALIWEB (Archie Like Indexing For The Web). It was first introduced to the public at the CERN research. However, the engine could not crawl and index the web pages. Users could only access information added to the database at their request. 

First-Ever Search Engine Website Design History

1994 – Ads Introduced To Website Designs 

The internet made its way into a commercial powerhouse through its first ad banner. AT&T Telecommunication company purchased that banner on An evident and popular trend of 90s design starts with the flashy banner to attract new users to the site.

First Website Advert

1995 – JavaScript Introduced

Arguably, the most crucial web programming language was invented named JavaScript. The new script technology allowed Netscape developers to automate the web behaviour while bringing interactive elements to it, such as embedded forms and drop-down menus. 

1996 – Rise Of CSS And Flash

The day Flash was invented became the hey-day for web designers. While integrating animation, they feel more powerful and creative. 

Another cornerstone technology emerged in the late 90s named CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Became a power duo with HTML, CSS eventually replaced the style of HTML content such as colour, typography, and layout. Web designers accessed more flexibility and control of the website appearance than ever before. 

1998 – Google Is Born 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, a pair of Stanford PhD. students launched something they could not even realise they had created. They created the future king of search, Google. It has influenced and changed the shape of web design. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) also started ruling when Google became the major search engine. Businesses began looking for ways to improve their rankings through SEO. 

The primary aim of Google was to find the relevant web searches by using an algorithm. The PageRank algorithm was used for analysing and accessing the importance of individual webpages based on cross-references. 

Website Design: The Evolution Period (2000-2010)

Until now, the websites were only working for the desktop browser window. Then, the world saw the natural growth of website designs. It was the mid-2000s when standard ‘website layouts' were developed. Time flies, and now we are all used to that. Heavy-texted websites were unacceptable, and web designers were mainly focused on browsers categorising information. The best they started with was using left bar categories and top navigation in the websites. Web pages were kept short and narrow because of the unpopularity of scrolling. There was a wide range of colour choices, but white, black, and blue were prevalent. 

Web Design and User Experience (UX)

It would have never occurred to anyone that websites could be adapted to different screen sizes. The concept of responsive web design was nowhere. But, the website users were becoming savvier day by day. Of course, no one wanted to stick around slow and messy websites. This urge to get something different in websites gave rise to the ‘user experience (UX)'. 

The user experience was limited for specific browsers before. The websites were not responsive. 

 Web designers started pondering the issue and setting a standard for good websites. A good website design standard is that it can go well with many devices such as mobiles, laptops, and desktops. 

The concept was first heard in 1995 at the CHI 95 Conference in Denver. The term was also presented in the paper of Austin Henderson, Donald Norman, and Jim Miller. The paper discusses critical aspects of Apple design and applications, particularly for user experience. 

2001 – First Responsive Website (

The Razorfish digital agency developed the first-ever responsive website, It is declared a partially responsive website as it modifies its content based on the web browser window. The example of may not be the classic one, but it is a perfect example of dynamic customisation design. 

2003 – First Web CMS Launched 

The first-ever version of open-source CMS (Content Management System) was launched called WordPress. Primarily based on PHP and MySQL, the technology took over the internet. WordPress is the most popular CMS and is used by more than 30% of the websites worldwide. 

2003 – MySpace Introduced 

MySpace, a social network, was founded by Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson. The popular social network Friendster back then became an inspiration for MySpace. The network touched the heights of popularity in 2004 when it acquired more than one million users. It also appeared as the largest social network between 2004 and 2010 worldwide. However, after Facebook, MySpace had observed a continuous decline in popularity when it started losing its users.

2004 – Flickr Introduced

The first-ever photo-sharing community, Flickr, emerged in March of 2015. Brought by Yahoo, Flickr was the first website that allowed photo tagging. The site was supported by Web 2.0, once exceeding the number of 10 billion posted photos in 2015. 

2005 – Google Analytics Introduced

There was a turn in the history of websites when Google invented a tool for acquiring statistical data about the website's users. The enhanced version of the tool was launched in 2005 and named Google Analytics. The analytics tool helps website owners record conversions, analyse user behaviour, and track traffic. 

Website Design In Mobile Era (2007-2010)

Mobile Web Design

Websites stepped into the world of ‘mobile-friendly' web world when the first iPhone launched in 2007. Before that, the process was hectic and often frustrating for the users. Web designers sat together to find a permanent solution for that. A better and standard approach for using the web on mobiles could be the only solution.

Related:  Top 10 Simple Tips For Freelance Design Life

The launch of the first iPhone marked something new and exciting. We all know it's not about Apple inventing the SmartPhone, but it just streamlined the process of using webs on mobile. All for avoiding unnecessary and frustrating experiences of web surfing. The launch of the iPhone, with its simple and intelligent design, grab the attention of a lot of people. They get a high-quality user experience while getting into a smooth browsing experience.

This also brought a lot of challenges with it. The challenges were related to navigation, tapping, and typing. Apple also dealt with challenges and proposed satisfactory solutions. The touchscreen technology started expanding to navigate a web page better. Natural hand gestures for typing and tapping were considered the mandatory on-screen elements. 

Fast forward to the iPhone launch, Apple proves to be a game-changer by bringing “the first fully usable HTML browser on the phone”. While not supporting the Flash, Apple broke the ice in many ways. He also made an extensive explanation in which he exhibited his thoughts about it. He claimed the fall of Flash by saying, “the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces, and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.” the statement announces the gradual downfall of Flash.

The Shift in Website Design Trends (2010 To Present)

When we talk about designs, we talk about trends, styles, and changes in the industry on a broader level. But, how can one define the trend? Is it something new or recycling of a previously existing style? The trends and designs help us navigate the old patterns and locate something that we have today and not in the past. It's like evaluating something on a gradual basis. 

Flat Website Designs

Web designers were craving new techniques and bringing playfulness to their websites. They took websites as art to develop interactive and creative projects. Flat website design, a significant trend, can be scaled easily. The history is not too long but goes back to Microsoft, the launch of Apple, the release of Windows 8, and the Material Design of Google. 

The first-ever flat design with a user interface was in Windows Phone 7. The design gained popularity and became a significant trend after Skeuomorphism designs. The previous designs were based on a realistic approach without any 2D or 3D elements technology. 

A flat web design is a website that uses simple colours, shapes, and 2D elements. The minimalist look doesn't go for the usage of heavier ingredients and textures. The design is much more adaptable than other designs and 3D features. With this design, the user gets a smooth and fast scrolling experience without wasting a lot of data. 

The web designers at IKONIC present a fine example of a flat website design. 

Flat Website Design Example

Importance Of Website Design For eCommerce

eCommerce has become so integrated into our lives that it's not easy to take our ways away from it. A long time ago, it was a part of our lives when no websites existed. There was teleshopping, and the way to place orders was just through the connection of television and telephone. The whole process shifted online after the arrival of the internet. 

The rise of eCommerce shows more and more ways to purchase goods and services. 

Web designers focus on developing websites that are easy to use for both the seller and the customer. The trend shifts the interest of marketers from outbound to inbound marketing. In this digital age, inbound marketing has received a lot of appreciation. 

Companies use website designs to write engaging content such as blog writing, eBooks, videos, and podcasts to attract customers. Businesses are promoting their brands through it. Inbound marketing highly depends on consumer demands and thus remains in a constant realm of change. Web designers are also a part of that, so they keep making changes according to trends. 

Web designers opt to create website designs depending on the user requirement, and lead generation is one of those. There are different website design development stages along with their drawbacks. However, a good designer will always have a bird's eye approach to developing a competitive product for their customers. 

Website Design in 2022

Fashion Website Design Template

Web design and its relationship with technology make us experience interesting innovations every year. Interestingly, the journey of web design development only took three decades. There is a lot on the plate. Where typography and animation lead to new heights, the visual styles span the spectrum. Overall, 2022 will be an exciting digital year when you preview the latest and unique website design trends. Moreover, there are website design development companies for your assistance in choosing the right and selling website design. 

Minimalist Web Design 

Isn't it fun to build a website that can maintain the design in any form? Indeed, it is. Website developers are doing the exact thing. To maintain free-for-all, creative and playful websites, web designers are discovering new ways of minimalism. Avoiding graphically complicated websites is better, so the best way is to choose a minimalist web design.

One-Page Website 

No one wants to go for complex websites. So, better to create something that proposes simplicity. Like, it can be a single idea like a portfolio that supports navigation through simple scrolling. If you're into one-page website design, you'll give your users a feeling that they are reading a poster or flyer. And, of course, it's not going to take much time. 

Typography Hero Images

Do you know what contributes to a significant visual strike in double-quick time? That is the hero image of your website. One of the popular website design trends of 2022 is adding eye-catching typography to hero images. The design promotes simplicity, not complexity, and is an excellent showcase for some creative and tasteful lettering styles. 

Interactive fonts

An exciting way of doing something creative with websites is to make fonts interactive. The trend talks about the next move where a user can play with a mouse and make changes with a button. More engaging effects with a no-code state involve more significant interaction of viewers than ever before. Well, there is a chance that people can get distracted by the moving characters, so always keep it readable. 

Page Speed 

The days are gone when people patiently wait for the page to load. Fast page loading has become a new trend and a top-of-the-mind consideration for web users and designers. Google's algorithm now makes it an essential factor in retaining a high user experience. Web developers 

take the support for various tools that can access page speed optimisation. 

Custom Content Websites 

Presenting dynamic content to users is now highly popular with tech agencies. We all know how it works. Dynamic content displays involve various things, such as tracking customer location and browsing history. Companies are highly involved in this trend for custom content marketing. The ‘branded content' uses direct communication and retains the conversion rate. 

Where Will Websites Go Next?

It's an excellent web design story. Now, what next? Well, It's still not the right time to hypothesise how websites will change in the coming years. But, the foundation seems to be based on art-based web designs as predicted by the experts. The inspired web effects are turning from the 80s and 90s. A fantastic illusion could be a suggestion but create a bizarre impact without serving any purpose. 

Websites designed with navigation buttons, imagery, and visible borders are all over the internet. Moreover, click-less browsing is making its way into the website design. If things continue going like this, we can expect more minimalism and simple design layouts on websites. 

As websites always come up with technology, we can take the names of a few technologies at the front. These will be AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR (Virtual Reality), and AR (Augmented Reality). The digital design, along with the tech innovations, will give a lead-driven website experience to users. 

For more effective and engaging interactives, it's always better to look in the past. The process of website design evolution doesn't take place in a vacuum. It adopts personal design styles and new technologies and thus chooses to evolve. 


The history of the web design process is surprising. We sit in front of the screen and connect with the technology and thus with people around the world. Many things have happened in these three decades, and we have come so far. The exciting changes have enriched our lives in impossible ways. Just imagine! If that can happen in only three decades? 

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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