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A Brief History of Web Design

Web design started with the creation of a global hypertext project, now known as the World Wide Web, in 1989. At that time, text-only pages were used, with a simple line-mode browser. It was improved with the creation of the Mosaic browser in 1993. When Mosaic hit the scene, browsers were Unix-based and text heavy.

Brief History of Web Design

(Pixabay / markusspiske)

The first step into web design was the birth of browsers that were able to display images, using the table concept existing in HTML. The table model became the most common way to design web pages.

HTML was limited, however, and JavaScript broke through with a solution. Introduced in 1995, JavaScript allowed for dynamic modifications and the use of popup windows.

Web design was advancing but still limited. Then came a technology that promised never-before-seen freedom. The new technology allowed designers to create shapes, animations, layouts, interactions and fonts with the same tool: Flash. With Flash, everything is packed into one file and sent to the browser for display. The year 1996 was a golden one for splash pages and different interactive effects.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was introduced in 1998 just as designers were having problems with Flash. CSS was helpful because it separated content and presentation.

Next, a new challenge in design emerged: browsing on mobile devices. This new frontier gave rise to grids and frameworks around 2007. Mobile devices presented content-parity problems and a greater need for speed. Column grids were introduced first, and modifications were made to create the 960-grid system and 12-column division. The downside was that design became very homogenous.

Later, responsive web design was introduced. Responsive design showcased the same content with different layouts. The main advantage of a responsive website is its ability to work across multiple devices. Developers no longer need to worry about the issue of compatibility between browsers, allowing them to focus on actual problem-solving.


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