The evolution of web design

By Marty Friedel
Published March 22nd, 2016
The only constant is change. And in web design, that constant is ever present.
The evolution of web design

Like Nirvana’s last album, web design really took off in Australia around the early-1990s. To this day I remember the first time I broke away from the rarified world of online bulletin boards (nerd alert!).

Watching a friend noisily dial up via a telephone line, I was fascinated by a website featuring fractals. I couldn’t believe how visual the web design was. I went on to design my first website using Microsoft FrontPage, to which I added some very cutting-edge animated GIFs. I probably picked up my brick-sized mobile phone to tell all my friends about it.

In the 20 years since my first ‘eureka!’ moment, the technologies, tools, styles and functionality of web design has changed so much.

Simply having a website back then put businesses ahead of their competitors. Now it’s a far more complex question of great web design, content management and strategy, targeted messaging and copy, and SEO.

Ye olden days of internet

In the 1990s, questions to my very first clients would have included:

  • What are your products and services?

  • Where do you want me to put your logo and phone number?

And away I would go, laboriously building it from the ground up using HTML. I’m pretty sure Meat Loaf’s I’ll Do Anything For Love was playing on the radio as I coded. Attractive web design wasn’t really part of the process – building a website was more a highly specialised, technical skill.

In addition, there was no Content Management System, so the client had no way of updating their own content and thus had to call me all the time. There’s nothing clients love more than that, right?

Centuries pass…

As websites evolved so did the design and development skills required to produce a great website (except the Space Jam website, which has not changed since 1996). Even Google’s simple homepage evolved its web design. And as this the technology emerged, so did the focus and needs of businesses.

Looking back over 20 years in the industry, I can see how web design has moved from the practical realm of an IT department into marketing and all that entails.

Now my questions to clients are highly targeted to their business aims. To create a website that’s truly going to work for your business, we need to know a whole lot more: 

The 3 stages of great web design

  1. To start the project, we need a solid understanding of your business focus and your vision for the future, as well as who your target audience is, and how they interact online. This then goes deeper into the perceptions of your industry as well as competitor analysis.

  2. Evolving this analysis, your design is crafted, capturing the components and feel of your brand to create a consistent business presence online. With the increase of mobile traffic, it is also so important to provide your mobile visitors with an exceptional experience through responsive design. When visitors arrive at your site, regardless of the size of their screen, they are provided with a well-branded and user-friendly website.

  3. While we are all experts in our professional fields, when writing about our business we can sometimes get lost in fine details or assume prior  knowledge from your visitors. A professional copywriter can create a consistent tone and style, as well as optimise the copy to keep the site searchable and current on search engines, ensuring your message gets across. 

The combination of the pre-build analysis, well-planned design and effective copy all work together to build a website that is able to work as a powerful marketing tool for your business.

Web design in 2016 is not as enthusiastic or crazy as the flashing blue text and repeatable textured backgrounds of the 90s.

But it does work a lot harder for your business.

Marty Friedel
Marty Friedel

Marty has a background in Computer and Information Science, software development, web development, multimedia and web accessibility, and is Mity Digital’s resident nerd.

Outside of his programming work, Marty is a keen landscape photographer, and also teaches Les Mills group fitness classes.