Its almost 30 years since people began using Internet. In 1982 the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and the concept of a world-wide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks called the Internet was introduced. Initially websites were only text based documents written in a markup language called HyperText Markup Language (HTML) with text links (hyperlinks) connecting each other.
The early days of web design were like a play of colors more than anything else. Only few fonts were available for use, browsers had their own mind and the dial-ups were the order of the day. As technology advanced and provided more tools, and broadband began entering common households, the web design industry too marked a distinct shift in the way websites were designed.
Websites started to look more like DTP on steroids. Thanks to a image format called .GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), pages began to scream out loud with animated banners, icons and borders. Adobe’s Flash ver 4.0 and later changed the way animation was delivered on the Web. It quickly became the de-facto standard for creating animations, special effects and through its Actionscripting, even web based applications were built… although Flash websites had their own limitations with less Search Engine friendly content and Accessibility issues.
During the 90’s, larger websites went dynamic by database powered content instead of static HTML pages and this proved to be another turning point in the evolution of Web. With the arrival of open-source CMS like Joomla, Drupal and now WordPress, it has become very easy to build, deploy and maintain database driven CMS website where all the content is controlled by a back-end system accessed through a browser in a secure password protected area.
As an example of this changing face of web design over the years, let’s take the case of Yahoo. Most of us know Yahoo and had or still have an their email account. They have been around for almost beginning of time (Internet Time, that is) and just by looking at their website over the years can give us an idea of how drastically it has changed over past 2 decades or so… http://themetoday.com/2010/01/yahoo-homepage-over-the-years/
Today, a web designer has to take into consideration not only the creative aspect of the website, but accessibility, site architecture, search engine friendliness, usability (especially in ecommerce websites and web applications) and loading times.
With the release of HTML5 and CSS3, things appear lot brighter than ever before for web designers and developers. Everybody wants a website that is running on these 2 hot technologies but there still remain the same issues with browser compatibility and fallback. The biggest advantage of using HTML5 and CSS3 over other technologies like Flash or older HTML4 specs is its responsiveness to various devices like smartphones, tabs, etc. As more and more people access internet through their phones, pads and other devices, it becomes increasingly important for web designers and developers to keep abreast of the technology and build their client websites using latest tools and technology, yet still maintaining the backwards compatibility for users with older devices, computers and browsers.