Back to the Future

Posted on Nov 18, 2015

shutterstock_156863096webworks89 has seasoned web developers that have witnessed the vast changes in web design themes over the past 15 years. This blog offers insight to retrospective design, prevailing trends in current themes, and a forecast for future design.

From Chuck Taylor’s and leather jackets to Air Jordan’s and tank tops, popular styles and trends continue to evolve – for better or worse. The combination of different styles can subtlety intertwine to give a culture a branded identity and this reflection holds true for web design. Relatively speaking, the era of the internet is still in its infant stages. Despite this young age, page designs have already undergone a series of ‘extreme makeovers’ in a short period of time. Let’s begin with early website design and gain a feel for the landscape of a budding web page.


Flashback to the 1990’s and early web page design…


Websites were text based in the internet’s early years. Designs were by no means fancy, but the layout was neat and reasonably easy to navigate for the average user. This basic design resembled more study sheet than web page. As years passed, websites slowly began to incorporate new effects into their themes. These effects included, hit counters, as well Flash and text effects. With Flash text effects, words would move across the screen and jump out to the user. Look at some of the early design templates of power house companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple. By the late 90’s text could change color with user interaction and music could be embedded on web pages. All features geared towards encouraging user interaction. In fact, Flash set the standard for modern web design features- as Myia Kelly, marketing assistant at Powered by Search, described it, “the marriage of virtual graphics and interaction.”

In the early 2000’s,  CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) began to catch-on. These table based layouts allowed for developers to alter multiple features of websites, including: background color, text size and text style in code. Developers could now write code with universal instructions that could be applied to the entire site, rather than just an individual page. This brings us to Javascript. By the mid 2000’s, this object-oriented interactive computer language, became prominent in websites. These commands control drop down menus, advanced navigation pages and web forms. The drop down menu feature is still very prevalent in modern design themes, with related child pages that drop down when users hover their cursor over these parent pages.

Have a look at what the Yahoo! homepage looked like back in 2002. If you’ll notice, there is an increase in colors, images and over capability; but the web page is messy compared to today’s standards.

So what’s the standard web page look like today?

First, we have to address the fact that people no longer exclusively access the internet through desktops. Nowadays, smart phones and tablets have replaced laptops and desktops for the popular internet use. The size and scale of all these devices vary, making it especially crucial for a web page to incorporate Responsive Design. Responsive Design simply entails that a web page will adjust to whatever device is accessing it, instilling a friendly user experience on all platforms. Here’s a look at some of the leading websites for mobile devices. Websites can be made responsive through frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap, and use Content Management Systems like WordPress to neatly organize content and embed plug-ins to advance a wide variety of functions.

The Modern Look:shutterstock_202781899

Modern web design is image driven. A good majority of websites today have large Hero images that dominate the screen. Hero Images do away with the concept of above and below the fold and can have overlaying blanket text that grabs the viewers attention. This text could be a headline or a social media button, as almost every present-day website has images linked to their Facebook, Twitter or any other social feed. These layouts of these social platforms have even influenced mainstream web design. Take for example, Pinterest. Pinterest has square images neatly organized into rows and columns. These “bite-sized” images are known as Cards. Cards can effectively distribute multiple images across a page, while maintaining a neat format, easy for the user to view. Web developers saw how appealing these cards were on Pinterest and shows the impact that social media has had on the definitive features of websites.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Videos have also become widespread for websites, in fact an article by Inc. Magazine found that, “92% of B2B customers watch online video, and 43% of B2B customers watch online video when researching products and services for their business.” These videos are predominantly brief, and are meant to educate the consumer in swift fashion  This design and the features that fall under it, are aimed at retaining the user on the web page; one of the most important factors when judging the success of a website.

The  Modern Function:shutterstock_128534165

The main goal of every website is to reel in conversions. Businesses spend thousands of dollars building their websites and thousands (if not millions) more marketing it. A great web page doesn’t just capture the user, it incites them to make a decision then and there. One way of doing this is through Interactive Product Images. Businesses want their product to jump out at users and many of these product images have advanced capabilities, like 360 degree rotators. These rotators are popular in modern eCommerce sites, as it allows the user to learn more as they interact with the website. It is critical that contact or payment information is made readily available, so most websites will have Calls-to-Action with forms located conveniently to the side so users can “Make a Payment” or “Learn More Today.”

Myia Kelly, of Powered by Search, went on to add, “Every design element here has been adapted in such a way to bring the most relevant content to the user in the most efficient and effective way. Notions of accessibility, adaptability, and usability truly define this era of web design.” Meaning, the concept of drawing conversions will never change, but the means by which we obtain these conversions, is bound to.

The Future of the Web Page

shutterstock_197541836We don’t have a DeLorean DMC-12 to sling-shot us into the future; so to describe the design of future web pages is purely speculation. However there are a few theories out there from some well respected forecasters in the tech industry. One intriguing theory is known as Contextual Computing. Author, Nathan B. Weller, describes it as, “Contextual Computing means that our technology understands us, our needs, and our environment to such a degree that it can seamlessly integrate into our lives in previously unimaginable ways.”

By converging information from Mobile, Social Media, Data, Sensor and Location-based services, contextual computing will be able to recognize the most effective forms of web design for given users. So if one form of web design has a higher conversion rate than other designs, this user will be more prone to these page designs, ideally eliciting more conversions. This may seem far away, but contextual computing is already taking place on a small scale commercial level. Read more about Contextual Computing and other futuristic design theories here.

If you’re looking for web developers who stay up-to-date with all of the latest designs, contact webworks89 today and find out how we can take your outdated website and send it back to the future.

Written by: Ryan Shearer



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