Serge Limontov - Web and website design article header
Infographic - I made the design reflect the article timeline

Let us start by saying thank you to all those people involved in creating the internet frameworks prior to the World Wide Web (WWW). Also, a big thank you to Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee (a.k.a. Tim Berners-Lee and TimBL), the man who gave birth to the WWW in the late 1980’s. In the early 1990’s he created the first browser which ended up starting a series of evolutionary events for users, developers and designers alike.

The web is basically a collection of linked devices and hyperlinks to certain bits of data. Each device, web page or file has a unique address which is used to interlink everything in some way. The content on the web can be located or accessed using a front-end interface like a browser. The browser has a difficult task of taking user requests, various code and server configurations, digesting everything and then displaying something a user will understand. Even to this day, work of the humble browser has not changed a whole lot, it is still a work horse with a large load to carry.

The 1990’s was also the age of commercially available dial-up modems, they made funky electronic sound effects while connecting to the internet over the landline. These modems allowed an average household to have access to the internet, but they were very unstable and got easily disconnected every time someone called or picked up the phone. The amount of data and the speed of transfer was a tiny fraction compared to today’s technology. Therefore, websites could not be very complex and had to be created as optimised as possible to be accessible to most users.

Website design rapidly grew during the 90’s with the introduction of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) in 1993, JavaScript (JS) in 1995 and then the addition of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in 1996. The first web pages were all originally text-based with very limited formatting options. When designers had access to JavaScript, tables and CSS, things really became experimental. At the beginning web pages were filled with mostly text and used psychedelic colour schemes. At a later stage, most web pages were created with a fixed width and the layouts looked more like flyers or experimental art.

Imagine viewing all those funky website designs on a “small” CRT monitor with VGA resolution (640×480) where you could see the jittery pixels and had to constantly scroll in both directions to view everything. Evolution of monitor and screen technologies greatly assisted in forming web design as we view it today. Over the year’s technology has taken giant leaps in both capability and affordability which in turn allowed the masses easier access to information sharing on the web.

Bruce Lee, an actor and a great martial artist once said – “Be Like Water”, this really relates to how content must be fluid and have the ability to reconfigure itself to fit any screen. In 2001, Audi must have listened and decided to create an experimental website that followed that principal. In 2008, Responsive Web Design (RWD) was born thanks to the evolutionary CSS3 Media Queries. Over several years, web browsers kept on adding support for various CSS properties, which in turn allowed website designers greater flexibility to create advanced user interfaces (UI) and improve the user experience (UX).

It is now 2019, we have come a long way in just a few decades and I believe things will keep on evolving with newer technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) by adding a third dimension into the mix. There are still many companies lagging behind, who are thinking about or are in the process of transitioning from old fixed width web pages to modern responsive websites with some type of flexible Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress. There seems to be serious concern with cost, difficulty of change, data retention, security, ignorance or just complete obliviousness to how the web and societies as a whole are changing.

I have noticed a trend where people desperately want to save money and think it should be easy to create a website by themselves, especially after viewing the constant advertising from Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy or something else. After reading a few articles online or watching a few tutorials on YouTube, they realise that they have spent several months on learning and trying to create a website instead of planning and growing their business. Be warned, all those DIY services are designed to lock you in and make money, how else could they afford to spend thousands of dollars on advertising every week. Also, hiring a random designer or developer from another country may save you money but most likely you will compromise on time, quality and/or security.

The amount of technological luxury we have now is phenomenal, this is both a blessing and a curse. With a plethora of digital content available on the web, scavenging through what is important and what is irrelevant gets harder each day as everyone tries to get a piece of the pie. If you decide to create something for the web, be honest, keep it simple, make it responsive and add content that will enrich the lives of others.