From technology to consumer law, changes in client expectations and even social and cultural issues, almost everything has an impact upon design. Increasingly, this is reflected in web design.
In a fast paced, media driven society, the internet is as powerful as ever in delivering information, products and services to the masses. In order to keep up with the constant shifts in web, us designers need to keep our eyes peeled and ears pricked!
Recently, our design team put together a presentation outlining a few of the key trends in the development of web design and what we, as designers, will be experimenting with moving forward.
In today's post, I'll look at the history behind the current state of web design, before outlining some of the current web design trends identified in our presentation in a follow up post tomorrow.
First some computer history
With the development of code breaking technology used in WW2, by the 1950s computers as we know them had been created. In the 60s and 70s, advances were made in point to point connections between computers, enabling data sharing and communication between machines. By the 80s, computers were connecting to each other worldwide - this was the birth of the internet. In the space of just 30 years, computers had gone from a calculative tool to a medium for communication across 1000s of miles.
The World Wide Web project
The webpage which would have looked something like the example on the right was the outcome of a project named 'World Wide Web' or 'WWW'.
Berners-Lee’s idea was to connect hypertext (text displayed on screen) with the Internet and personal computers. Initially, its purpose was to create a single information network to help his colleagues share and pass data to each other.
The potential of the World Wide Web was quickly realised, and developments escalated with the intention of providing a creative and interactive medium for anyone with access to a computer.
Berners-Lee’s vision was that web pages and browsers should be as flexible as possible, and thus the first ever web browser was also an editor. However, the system it was compatible with was far too advanced compared to most people’s computers. So, in order to get the www out to the masses, a ‘dumbed’ down version needed to be developed for distribution.
Much like today, compatibility issues and restrictions played a large part in the development and design of the WWW and its webpages.
Trend 1 - Imagery
With the obvious advantages of web pages for companies in terms of advertising and communicating with potential customers, advances in how webpages could be utilised became increasingly important.
Trend 2 - Tables
Table based design allowed for a 'proper' layout with columns and headings.
The use of columns in layout sat in line with what is seen in magazines and newspapers. This was a tried and tested method of displaying information for print, so why not on screen?
However, as the technology developed, so did the reach of the www. New considerations arose and it was quickly realised that tables were not the best solution for web design in the long term. Tables have proved to be restrictive, produce slower load times, create layout issues with different screen sizes, damage SEO, create difficulties when printing and produce poor accessibility for users needing screen readers and other tactile devices. (Fig3)
Designers now needed to start considering a range of issues, including the speed of the website, different screen resolutions, accessibility and so on.
Trend 3 - Speed & CSS
As the speed of the internet increased, so did load times. Greater bandwidth allowed for larger images, jquery and other visually appealing effects and functionality, giving designers the ability to produce richer designs.
The use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) layouts added flexibility for designers to experiment and move away from the rigid table formula. These layouts also enabled a higher level of site wide consistency in formatting, which made it easier to update compared to previous methods.
CSS can also be used to allow a web page to display differently depending on the screen size or device on which it is being viewed, including screen readers and braille/tactile devices.
So that's the past? What about the future?
Tomorrow I'll take a look at some of the current trends in web design and what this means for the future.
Written by Ally Wright