From innumerable gifs suddenly dancing across the screen to the black background contrasted wildly with the neon-colored text, Myspace used to be cool. While I am by no means saying to model your website after Myspace (I said “used to be cool”), many lessons stand to be learned from the storied evolution of web design from the internet’s conception to now. After several decades of the web bringing innovation, design preference changes, and capabilities for better UX, there’s a question floating in my mind, and maybe yours too: what are the key takeaways that apply today?
1. Make it easy to load.
The HTML websites that graced the internet in its immediate beginning, despite being exclusively text, surprisingly still bear a helpful reminder: simplicity. During the ‘80s, the minimalism meant that less powerful connection could load the page. Now, despite having more advanced connection, mobile users (who constitute a large percentage of website visitors—think about how much we pull out our phones!) often have weaker connection than computers. Therefore, not going overboard with the complexity of a website means that it will be easier for users to access on any device, including phones.
2. Focus on content.
Although the text-only sites of HTML were imperfect, there’s one more lesson to learn from them: content matters. Design preferences will change and, while the kind of content that is relevant will fluctuate, it will always matter. HTML was able to eventually work hand-in-hand with CSS, utilizing strong content and design. Additionally, the main appeal to the popular platform WordPress is that visuals and layout can be updated without altering the content.
3. Stay centered around UX.
In its time, table-based design was the most user-friendly layout for websites, but, given that it is difficult to load, it was eventually replaced with the page navigation menus seen today. Usability was the catalyst in those updates! UX is also the reason responsive design (what enables websites to automatically adapt to mobile screens) came to be! This principle can be applied in other areas: color choices, graphics, layout, etc. can all be chosen with the user in mind.
4. Embrace innovation & change.
From 1992 when, for the first time, a photograph was uploaded to the internet, to 1994 when the first banner ad came to be, it’s clear that the landscape of the internet is constantly changing. While the frequency of change may have slowed down from what it once was, innovation and updates will continue. To avoid becoming outdated, or no longer seeming relevant, embrace the changes that work for your site and audience!