The first website in the world was hosted on a NeXT computer at CERN in a lab in the Swiss Alps. It described what the World Wide Web Project was all about, how to access it, what to use, how to further develop it and so on. It was designed – or rather programmed – by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web himself.
Building upon the idea of the internet as a whole, Berners-Lee came up with the concept of using a system of interlinked hypertext protocols to transfer a user from document to document and so navigate the internet. He and his team developed the original Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) as well as a language in which documents could be written, called HTML. They also developed the first browser — a program capable of reading HTML and basically ‘browsing’ the various documents.
Without getting into a philosophical debate, web design evolved from chaos created by many minds. There was a certain design curve if you will. It began simple, with basic colors and layouts. Berners-Lee’s WWW site didn’t have more than text and a few links. Most other sites that followed kept it simple as well.
But soon simplicity went overboard with images, music, silly effects and slow bandwidth. Things took momentarily a turn for the worse when Adobe Flash came along. Although it could make a visitor’s site interaction interesting, it weighed down heavily on bandwidth and a user’s time.
Google changed all of that when it banked on a heavy reliance on good old fashioned text to index sites. Suddenly it became vital for a site to have text and information as opposed to fancy intros and beeping menus in order to garner rank in search engines. New languages came along such as PHP, AJAX, jQuery and others to help keep up with the demand for databases and text-based sites.
Despite fast internet available worldwide – and according to Google soon via balloon – the established current style is minimalist. Information needs to be accessible quickly and easily without too much clutter. Images need to speak their proverbial thousand words, while the words or texts need to be concise and interesting. Adobe Flash is used sparingly. While a lot of links are good in a SEO context, it is interesting to note that more and more sites return to the basic one-page scheme that only requires scrolling. This may have to do with the fact that the web is increasingly used by tablets and phones: tapping on links can be frustrating while scrolling is done with a simple flick of the finger.
The future looks simple where web design is concerned. A designer needs to meet the perfect balance between design and information for a site to be user friendly. Text and articles still matter for indexing and ranking, but the more visual a site, the better. Videos and charts help show a visitor what they are looking for.
And that is the crucial point: in the end it comes down to what the visitor is looking for. So when designing a site, give them what they want.