The all-singing, all-dancing websites we use today are a far cry from their distant text-only ancestors. The first webpage in 1991 was no more than a few paragraphs of text and a scattering of hyperlinks. Since then, the standardisation of HTML and the arrivals of Flash and CSS have transformed our online experience beyond recognition.
Tim Berners-Lee’s prototype webpage in HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) set the bar for the pages that followed. In 1994, the W3 Consortium was established and, from this point on, HTML became the standard language used in web programming.
The introduction of tables was an important development in web design as it allowed for the creation of multi-column layouts. Tables could be highly complex, in some cases hundreds of cells wide, in order to achieve the desired layout. The sidebar popular with modern sites is a nod to table-based design.
Hot on the tails of Macromedia Shockwave, Flash changed the face of web animation thanks to its smaller file sizes and quicker load speeds. Around the same time, DHTML (dynamic HTML) and 3DML (a little-used language for 3D websites) came into existence.
Before Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), content and design were one and the same; changing one always affected the other. In order to style a content element (such as a word or paragraph) you had to wrap it in HTML tags. This was fine when you only wanted to edit just one element; but what about when you wanted to style hundreds of elements in the same way (e.g. headers, hyperlinks)? CSS was revolutionary because it separated content from design, enabling the web designer to write ‘style sheets’ containing all of the presentation information for their website, creating consistency across their pages in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the code.
As CSS has evolved, certain declarations have become obsolete and have been replaced with new, more intuitive declarations.
The modern web user has more options than ever when it comes to surfing the net. The wide variety of browsers and devices available mean that web designers must ensure that their site looks and performs well across all mediums, from Chrome to Safari, mobile phone to laptop. Responsive design is a complicated process, and involves (among other things) using media queries to activate different style sheets for different viewing environments and favouring percentages and ems over fixed values to display content relative to screen size.
2013 may be ‘The Year of Responsive Design’, but in the fast-paced world of web design, it is very difficult to predict the way we will build and interact with sites in years to come.
Featured Image: Royalty free stock from sxc.hu – source
Article by Vikki
Vikki works alongside Amplitude Creative design agency (http://www.amplitudecreative.co.uk/). Fascinated by all things design, she is self-taught in HTML and CSS and is in the process of building her own site.