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History of website design – an overview

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History of website design – an overview

Welcome to our article on the overview history of website design. In this article, we are going to briefly cover the history of website design globally and also look at the future of website design. To look at the history of website design we first need to take a short trip back in time to 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed to create a global hypertext project whilst he was working at CERN. This project later became known as the World Wide Web.

During 1991 to 1993 the World Wide Web was born and this was the start of many new industries including website design. Initially, text-only pages could be viewed using a simple browser. The next step in this evolution came from Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina who in 1993 created the Mosaic Browser. This browser was a huge leap forward in that most browsers of the time were very heavy text-based and had little to no integrated approach to graphics. The Mosaic browser broke the mold for browsers of the time and this led to massive leaps forward in the website design industry.

The W3C was created in late 1994 as a way to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential. This meant developing a set of common protocols that help to shape the future of the web and indeed website design as an industry. Whilst the great intentions of W3C helped to shape the internet as we know it and still does there was a time between 1996 and 1999 where the browser wars took place.

During the browser wars browser developers including Netscape and Microsoft fought for browser dominance by adding things like browser-specific HTML tags and much more. Whilst this made things difficult for compatibility it was during this time that many great website technologies appeared including Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Javascript and dynamic HTML. On the whole, the browser wars really helped to shape the future of website design.

History Of Website Design – The Early Years Timeline

  • 1989 – Tim Berners-Lee proposes a global hypertext project.
  • 1991 – 1993 – The World Wide Web was Born
  • 1993 – The Mosaic Browser Is Born (First Modern Browser)
  • 1994 – W3C was created to guide the future of the World Wide Web
  • 1996 – 1999 – The Browser Wars introduced new technologies to the industry
  • 1996 – Microsoft it’s first competitive browser which supported Style Sheets
  • 1996 – CSS was recognised and introduced by W3C
  • 1996 – Flash was developed
  • 1998 – Netscape released the source code for Netscape Communicator under open source license
  • 1998 – The Web standards project was formed to promote browser compliance with HTML and CSS standards
  • 1999 – The browser wars ended with Microsoft being declared the unofficial winner when Netscape was sold to AOL
  • 2000 – Microsoft released the first internet explorer for Mac which was the first browser to fully support HTML 4.01 & CSS 1

History Of Website Design From Then To Now

Continuing our journey the past history of website design we now look at the years between 2001 and 2018. During this time there have been many changes to browsers, protocols and the industry itself. Many new browsers have hit the scene over the years with most being considered by end-users to be better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Microsoft’s Edge browsers. These newer browsers include Google Chrome and Firefox as well as Apple’s Native Safari.

The W3c have also during this timeframe released new standards in HTML (Version 5) and CSS (Version 3) as well as major changes and reiterations of Javascript API’s. Each of these released as a new and individual standard.

Another huge leap forward in the website design industry came in the early 2000s when Content Management systems became dominant in the construction of websites. These content management systems helped designers to rapidly build websites for the world wide web and allowed the use of dynamically changing content on a regular basis.

History Of Website Design Content Management Systems

The website design industry boomed with the mass adoption of content management systems and the surge of online platforms available. With offerings from WordPress (2003), Squarespace (2003), Weebly (2006) and Wix (2006) the face of the industry changed. These platforms forced changes because they allowed non-technical (general public) to be able to create their own websites without the need of a professional designer or developer. This, of course, disrupted the industry significantly and caused prices to fall in the design industry as a whole.

Ultimately the CMS era was born and whether it was welcomed by the design industry or not it was here to stay. Moving down the line to modern times and it is easy to see that these content management systems have become commonplace in the industry used by amateurs and professionals alike. At current the leading content management system is also one of the oldest with WordPress holding a market share of over 60% in the CMS business. The rise of CMS platforms has also spurred a host of new industries including optimised hosting platforms, website support and maintenance programs, installation services, and repair services.

The Future Of Website Design From Now Forward

So where exactly does the future of website design lay? To look at this we need to first study the past which we have done above and look at the new and emerging technologies that are being developed today. Some of these future items that are becoming evident are outlined below:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Multimedia
  • Animation
  • Virtual Reality
  • Mobility

Artificial Intelligence

Whilst not easily spotted AI has been around quite a while and is still a growing industry. From the algorithms, Google uses to deliver your search results to virtual assistants on your mobile phones that learn from you over time. As time goes by things like AI-based chatbots and mobile assistants are integrating more and more with the web and changing the face of website design. With website design and development finding additional uses for AI year after year it can only become more prevalent in the future.


With more and more use of mobile phones and less time available to consume content multimedia such as videos, audio and podcasts are on the rise. With the consumption of this media via platforms like YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and more you can deliver content to the end-user right where they wish to consume it. The website design industry continues to grow the usage of these multimedia items and I feel in the future this will become more commonplace then a blog is now.


Even though it has been around a long-time animation is a growing part of the website design industry. Animation like multimedia is a great way to get content to the market in short bites of easy to consume information. I see a huge demand in the work we perform at Conceptual Creative that asks for explainer videos and animations. Just like multimedia, I feel that this content type will continue to grow into the future.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is still a growing field and whilst it has not done a lot in the website design space it does interact with it. In the future, I think it will be commonplace via virtual reality and augmented reality to interact more with websites. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a particular product in a window. You take a photo of the item and are instantly presented with purchasing options, more information and the ability to view variations. This data would be pulled directly from websites using a combination of this technology, website design, and AI.


With the pace of life generally speeding up and devices becoming more portable mobility is key to website design now and in the future. In my career, I have seen website design go from text-based to image-based, desktop-only through to early mobile phone and finally to mobile optimisation. I think the mobile device world will continue to change and the internet of things will continue to alter the website design industry. We will see more and more non-traditional devices capable of viewing websites and this will change the way websites are built potentially more than any other technology.



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