Posted by : Amanda Stein Saturday, February 1, 2014

20 years of internet evolution has seen the World Wide Web become an integral part of everyday life, and a powerful marketing tool. It's difficult to imagine a world without the internet, even for those of us who can still remember the days of dial-up.

And as internet technology has advanced, so have the methods utilized by web designers. Some of us may find ourselves bemused at the bemusement with which kids of today greet non-touchscreen interfaces, but the fact remains that changes in web design have produced control systems that are more intuitive and accessible than those of the past.

Here's a look at how advances in web technology have affected content.

Some key events in the history of the internet:

-        The 1960's: The creation of ARPANet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). A result of collaboration between the University of California in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, the Stanford Research Institute and the University of Utah; ARPANet was  funded by the U.S. Department of Defense for the purpose of facilitating communication between its various research labs. The technology would form the basis of the internet.

-        1982: The creation of TCP/IP, the standard internet communications protocol

-        1991: The first website is published. British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee proposes a new CERN communication system, but realized that the system could be implemented throughout the world. This system would become the basis for the World Wide Web.

How Web Pages have Changed over the Years

-        Early 90's: The first web pages were text-based, as that was all that the slow internet speeds of the time could handle. Furthermore, there was not much of a design to them; but the introduction of headers and links made possible by the first iteration of HTML hinted at the more organized website layouts that were to come.

-        Mid-90's: Graphical elements such as GIFs and text effects began to make their first appearance. Websites were still heavily text-based, but the layout of the text showed that people were beginning to understand the potential for more visually appealing websites.

-        Late-90's: With the introduction of Flash in 1996, the web design revolution had truly begun. Web sites gradually became sources of virtual and interactive entertainment as well as information.

-        Early 2000's: The introduction of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) made web development more accessible by allowing the content and design elements of a website to be developed separately. More focus was given to User Interface design, which was being recognized as the most important element of the website.

-        Mid to late 2000's: JavaScript began to gain prominence, allowing for enhanced website elements. This period also saw the rise of social media and mobile devices, truly cementing the internet's place in our everyday lives.

What's Next for the Internet?

Web development continues to evolve, as new technologies are introduced and the approach to website design becomes more and more refined. Having an online presence has become essential for businesses, and the discipline of User Interface design is rapidly increasing in importance.

Whilst the advent of Flash saw the simplistic web design approach of the early 90's being replaced by an emphasis on fancy 3D effects; “simplicity is key” seems to be the mantra of modern web design, with the abundance of graphical effects being scrapped in favour of flat interface design and large photographic backgrounds.

Meanwhile, new features introduced with HTML 5 allow developers to create web applications that work offline. This is made possible by a 'manifest' file which instructs the web browser to store certain elements in the user's cache.

So after 20 years of internet evolution that has seen the world progress from dial-up connections to permanent broadband access, perhaps the next big thing in web design will be websites that work offline?

Featured images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source 
is a freelance writer who counts himself amongst the generation of internet users that still feels nostalgic when they hear the sound of a 56k dial-up tone

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