March 26th 2020

Design for Web – A basic History

Design for Web – A basic History

Websites have come a long way since the first one I designed (if you call it that) back in 1999. That’s actually quite scary that’s 21 years ago. Back then you basically put something together with Front Page or really hardcore, with a text editor, you didn’t need to worry about site speed as everything was slow then, mobile phones forget it, user experience, well the fact you where online was amazing and graphics could be any old rubbish. You could splatter the site with ads and keywords with no consideration as anything went.

Development of the Web

Since 1999 a technical revolution happened as technology got better users become savvier the browser providers got smarter gone where the days Internet Explorer rules the waves.

Once Firefox and Safari came a long new way to build a website came into play flash took off and then more interactivity started to happen you could then have videos, interaction with the users. I remember a website I built for a band we had their songs streaming in the background on their pages. Interactive bouncy balls (no idea why it seems good at the time). Interactive roll overs for the band members.

However, the search engines and mobile devices then took over and started to dictate how websites are created today.

To begin with iPhones couldn’t handle Flash and flash was seen to be a problem for browsers as well as you can easily stick some malware or nasty virus into the code. Also, it was going to start effect downloading of sites on devices.

Birth of the Mobile Site

Mobiles devices came a bit of a headache for most web designers. Basically, now you need to have two versions of your website a desktop version and mobile version. Then the complexity started to happen.  A mini revolution came with the invention of type of code which allowed more flexibility through the browsers they were called fluid websites.  Sites which used 1 piece of code and you were about to get the same results with different sized screens (still not technically great for mobiles). Eventually technology marched on and gave us superfast broadband and then 15,000 different devices a website can be viewed on. This was a massive change to may be 4 devices.

Website SEO Optimisation

Google and the search engines then started to get to grip with user experience and behaviours due the vast amounts of data and patterns they were seeing. Sites where still using flash and also the new industry of SEO (well it started in 2007 or earlier) where using anything they could to exploit the algorithms. Such as if you searched the Sound of a Formula 1 engine you would get a Porn site at the top of the listing.  Users where getting a little bit sick of really being exact on search terms to find what they want.  SEO companies then keyword stuffed, laced pages with no regard for the user and write absolute non sense on every web page. Creating link wheels which where 100s of websites with no relevance linking back to your site. The things back mid 2000s was to get as many back links as possible to be found in the search engines.

The search engines thought enough! Web site designers/owners need to start thinking about proper design and also about the user. The expression “Content is King” and “User Experience is Key”.

Design of the website

The first round of this user based was around making sure the website was actually decent quality. That would be around the content. Was it original and unique did it solve a purpose or a question and could it if it were a medical condition be treated with the information the site provided (Possibly not as strict as that)?  This then led to if the content is good but an absolute mere to find the content on the site over the haze of pop ups and adverts and call to actions the design needed to be looked at. 

Clear easy to use navigation, clear typography that’s not just the size of the font, its spacing of text, length of text how graphic supplement the site and how. The layout was key as well and how you structure the content. This then led to a lot more sites becoming a lot better for the users but still it wasn’t enough.

Mobiles were still being left behind and so where tablets. The mobile sites of the past where no longer up to the job. Google then forced the hand of the whole industry and basically told a little lie to say basically if your website isn’t mobile friendly you would drop of the rankings instantly. Bootstrap then came the thing developed by Twitter Bootstrap was a framework which allowed web designers and developers to uses a standard structure to build in. No longer the need to have 2 different websites showing the same piece of information. You now could have 1 piece of code to effectively do the job.

Designing for Mobile users

With this next leap to service the highest growing user base is to make one website fit all. A lot of designers only cater for the desktop version and then fumble the design down to mobiles etc.. If Users experience and the design is to be taken seriously to make the site work, then you need to reverse the thinking. Mobile first then work your way backwards up the design. This then make the work for the web developer and front-end designer a lot easier.

The web is changing almost daily with new and exciting features, the key for any decent website design company is to keep up with the latest trends and also to constantly go back to the design.  Design it right for the user and the site will work. Don’t follow the fashion of other websites as every company has a different type of user and a different experience. No one glove fits all works with websites. The user is king and this will always drive a successful website.

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