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Evolution of Web Design: Early 1990s

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Web design is ever changing, and whilst all design evolves over time to match changes in trends and culture, website design has moved faster than almost anything else, with the staggering advancement of technology continually expanding the things web designers can do on a site. In the first of a series of blogs we take a look at the evolution of web design alongside a couple of decades of rapid change online with the Evolution of Web Design; Early 1990s.

The earliest days of the web can be traced back to the 1950’s when it was conceived as a system for military communications, but the web that most of us recognise emerged in the early 1990’s, when CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee published the first ever website online; a simple page of text with a few links explaining what the World Wide Web was and what it could do.

Berners-Lee envisioned something much closer to the web of today, but like any technological innovation you have to make a start somewhere and this text and links approach was the first rung of the ladder.

At this time the web had just one website design coding language called HTML (standing for Hyper-Text Mark-up Language), which is still used today but with a whole range of additional features. In the early 90s HTML just arranged the text into paragraphs and so on, much like word processing software will.

Website design wasn’t even an afterthought at this stage, WWW was a creation of academics and scientists who looked at it purely in terms of communicating raw information and data, the earliest web browsers struggled to even incorporate images into pages often providing them as a separate download that would take an eternity.

As such, the earliest commercial websites didn’t vary a great deal from what Berners-Lee had done, there was eventually the addition of some colour and the occasional logo as browsers got better, but the simplicity of HTML and the incredibly slow download speeds limited it to no more than a tiny logo, text, links and all arranged in a single column format.

The web was simple, and not terribly attractive! The concept of web design, or of a specialist web designer barely existed, but the concept of the web at large grabbed a lot of people’s attention. Early adopters, creators, academics and soon businesses realised that this could grow into something really useful even if they didn't know quite what, and people started thinking hard about how they could turn these simple pages of text into a truly revolutionary new medium rich in colour, imagery and design.