The web has always been a place where new horizons are crossed. We’ve come a long way since Geocities and Angelfire…and in 2020, we’re seeing a unique explosion of highly visual, innovative web designs.
These days, the user experience is everything, and web designers are happily pushing boundaries to offer something extraordinary. Still, classic design elements have formed the foundation of today’s digital realm. Let’s talk a walk through the evolution of web design.
- Web design is keeping its minimalistic trend, but with a bold new twist.
- At the same time, lush, immersive visuals and animations are becoming more popular.
- The human experience is at the center of the latest design renaissance.
When the World Wide Web first started taking off, websites were quite simple and text-oriented. Dramatic backgrounds, flashy animations, and bold text were all ways that designers jazzed up their sites, but today’s audience looks down on those sites as gauche and cheesy.
Websites were also limited in their user experience. They presented a very different look or didn’t render at all, depending on users’ devices and software. Browsing a website on one’s phone was unheard of.
Visitors took a passive role when accessing the site and had no opportunity to affect the content they saw. The web design of the 90s was quite focused on the potential for technological expression rather than taking the human centric view that would become popular later.
The new millennium ushered in an era of minimalist, sleek design and an emphasis on quick-loading, uncluttered sites. Designers started to strip away the clunky elements from the page, even as sliding banners and other animated elements became popular.
This decade also saw the debut of the infinite scroll, in which pages became lengthier. Web designers seemed to have an attitude of “more, more, more” as they designed.
In the 00s, web design went big, largely because computer screens were getting bigger as well. A single webpage held tons of content, which would soon present a problem when screens shrunk again.
Once smartphones became the bread-and-butter of modern life, web designers quickly realized the need for responsive design. It was now critical that websites be ultra-flexible and easy to view on small devices. Websites completed their shift away from text-forward, hard-coded designs and toward minimalist, grid-based layouts. Along with this shift, many pages got shorter again because no one wants to scroll forever on their mobile device.
Nearing the end of the decade, web design started re-incorporating a bit of 90s flavor as intricate illustrations, animated page elements, and large visuals are once again defining websites. This time, though, they had a lot more class, and there was no need to install Adobe Flash!
As the new decade begins, we find that minimalism is still in style, but it’s taking a bold new approach. Web designers are playing with monochromatic color palettes, dramatic typography, and strong symbolism. When combined, these elements produce a memorable, immersive visual experience.
Web design in this new style of minimalism also focuses on functionality in a creative way. Everything is done for a purpose, which makes the user feel more connected to the content. For example, if you’ve ever been mesmerized by a simple animation that responded to your mouse’s movement, you’ve seen the new future of web animation.
These micro-animations provide a whimsical touch to websites. In grander designs, page elements slide, wiggle, or fade as the user interacts with them. This is the pinnacle of immersive design.
It’s the stuff of science fiction movies: when you visit a website, it shows you exactly what you want and a friendly AI is there to cater to your every need. That’s becoming ever more possible at the horizon of web design.
Many websites are allowing extensive customization of the user experience, and AI allows both chat bots and content delivery to tie into the user journey. People will start encountering websites that show specific content to them based on their previous behavior.
As we move further into the 21st century, designers are increasingly prioritizing the user at the center of the visual experience. Web design is becoming finally attuned to human behavior and interests, from careful application of colors to immersive animations that interact with the user.
We are now reaching a convergence of technological potential and the human connection to the digital world.
In 2020 and beyond, web design is centered around the human experience, from user behavior with the page itself to grander ideals of harmony and inclusion. The trends from decades past have merged into an innovative blend of storytelling and visual simplicity, even as new technologies allow for lush, intricate designs.
In a few more years, we’ll likely see websites that are fully customized for each user’s unique needs as they continue to push the boundaries of design.