The Progress of Web Design: From Tim Berners-Lee to Mobile Website Design

Evolution of Web Design

In the early 1990s, websites were text-based. The use of images and graphics were not yet main stream at the time. The first web design was made of a single column and text-based pages in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Website pages were a collection of text documents connected to each other by internal links. Through research and development, significant advancements were made. The first website was published in 1991 by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He is also the current director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) founded in 1994, which oversees the web development and its standards.

In the mid 1990s, table-based websites were introduced. Now web designers were able to organize their web pages within cells of a table. It became possible to create multiple column websites, which in return allowed better web content organization and navigation layout. Table-based websites also enabled customization of each element within the table. Web designers could now insert background images within cells of a table; however, good design principles were not really important. Website designers and clients were interested by the hottest, latest and most advanced web design technology available. As things started to evolve, frames, animated texts and visual hit counters became part of web design. Frames were used to clearly separate the body of a website from the sidebar navigation. Animated texts and GIF images were used to capture the website user’s attention, while visual hit counters became a good way to measure the popularity of a webpage. In 1994, Macromedia introduced Flash, which is essentially a software used to produce Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to create animations and stream videos.

In the late 1990s, Flash became more popular. Most websites became a combination of table-based design and flash elements, with flash animations including the company’s logo, a flash-based navigation and flash-based image galleries. The major Web Design innovation of the late 1990s was the introduction of Personal Home Page (PHP) which according to Wikipedia, is a server-side scripting language designed for web development. PHP gained a lot of popularity because it is free and compatible with leading operating systems and web servers which make it deployment easy across different platforms.

The 21st century brought a lot of innovation to web design with the introduction of CSS. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used to format an HTML webpage. Now web designers could separate the content of a page (HTML) from its styling or design (layout, colors, fonts, etc.). In the early 2000s, Microsoft Internet Explorer became the first web browser to fully support the CSS structure. In stride, the concept of intelligent web was introduced with the advent of JavaScript. Now designers could animate content without flash and perform a complex computation of data. The use of drop-down menus and forms also became very popular. These forms allowed internet users to generate content online, create personal profiles and upload pictures.

In the mid 2000s, the semantic web was born. This movement primary allows machines and computers to understand website pages as well as human do. This was made possible by inserting computer readable Meta tags about pages and their relation to one another through technologies such as XML, TURTLE and N-TRIPLES.

One of the first tasks, when you want to put together a great website for your business is to find a good web designer. Thanks to the internet, we now have the ability to communicate easily and work with people from all over the world.

It’s tempting to outsource work to freelancers and companies who advertise their services on the internet because it’s often cheaper than hiring a local professional or company. If you take that route to find your web designer, you’re likely to regret that decision sooner or later. Here are seven reasons why a local web designer is your best option.

1: You Don’t Want Communication Problems And Timezone Issues

There are some things that are still best done face-to-face. It makes a big difference when you can sit with your web designer and explain your requirements. It also makes it easier to review the work at various stages and make corrections, something which you’re unlikely to do if you have a remote web designer.

You can use video chat or teleconferencing to do periodic reviews, but these methods have their own limitations. If your web designer is in another timezone, you have bigger communication hurdles. You will find that it takes longer to get replies to your emails and there will be other inevitable delays.

These can be quite frustrating when you want to communicate new requirements or changes. With a local web designer, you will also avoid possible language barriers or cultural differences.

2: A Web Designer Who Understands Your Business Has An Advantage

Local people will be able to come to your office and see how your business works. They will be able to better understand the objectives of your web presence and will be able to use that knowledge to your advantage when they actually do the work. They will also be able to give you new ideas and suggest improvements, rather than just creating a design that fits your specifications.

3: Local Knowledge Is A Great Asset For A Local Business

If your business caters only to your locality, city or state, local designers will be able to understand the local aspects of your business and its target market better. For example, people familiar with your area and community will be able to understand better when you’re targeting a sub market that is specific to your area. This sub market could be, say, people in a specific income bracket or living in a certain locality.

4: Local Website Designers Have Their Local Reputations At Stake

When the customer is in the same area, designers have more to lose if they provide poor service. Designers are conscious of the need to maintain a good reputation in the market, be it online or offline. In fact, word-of-mouth reputation is usually more important when they have to deal with other local businesses. You can also ask your designer for local references with whom you can actually cross check the quality of service.

5: You Can Expect Better Technical Support And Training

Everyone needs technical support. Sometimes technical problems may be caused due to design issues. You may also need training for using your content management system or your web hosting control panel. You’re likely to get better support and interactive training if you hire local designers.

6: Local Web Design Companies Or Professionals Are Less Likely To Disappear

The worst part of outsourcing is that it’s difficult to ensure continuity. This is especially true when you’re dealing with individuals and small companies. You may find that your web designer or company is no longer available when you want some changes or more work done, say, one year down the line. When you’re dealing with well-established local companies, you’re less likely to face such a problem.

7: Commitment Is Harder To Gauge When You Work With A Non-local Designer

Local companies and web designers are more likely to be committed to help you achieve what you want to achieve with your website. Two reasons which we discussed before are in part responsible for this. One is the better understanding they have about your goals and requirements. The other is the need of the designers to maintain their local reputation.

Although it may seem easy to hire a web designer from a far-off location, it can prove more difficult and costly in the long run. Web designing is an ongoing process even though the bulk of the work is done in the initial months.

1. Crawl the web

Your search for the perfect web designer starts with familiarizing yourself with the excess of beautifully designed and well maintained websites that are out there in the World Wide Web. Create a list of the features you liked across all the websites you have visited and arrive at a final wish-list of 8-10 features you would like your website to have. It could be aesthetics, page-load speed, ease of navigation, stickiness (addictiveness), relevance of content, level of engagement, or any number of other features. You should also visit potential designers’ websites. A well-designed and informative website of the web designer projects professionalism. It indicates business confidence and application of expertise.

Now you should have 2 lists, one for web designers and one for your desired features.

2. Talk purpose and branding

The first thing you should do with each of your short-listed designers is to broach the topic of branding and the role of your website in creating the online brand presence you had envisioned. Your website is the face of your brand on the internet!

The design of your website must coincide with your overall brand image and sales goals. Website design differs depending on its purpose. If you are a building consultant, you may only want to list information about you, your services and a contact form for service. If you are a home builder, you most likely will need a gallery to showcase your display homes and jobs completed. If you are a building supplier, then you may need a shopping cart feature. Evaluating the purpose of your website will help determine the features you must have and those you can live without ensuring the best return on investment (ROI).

3. Talk Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You should seek out web designers who are familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Of course, it helps if the web designer is an SEO expert themselves.

You should always keep in mind that you are building a site to sell a product or a service. There is no point of having the most fascinating site when it doesn’t serve its purpose.

Think of SEO as this example:

‘When you first publish a website, it is similar to putting up your sign beside a busy highway. When you first put up the sign it is only 1meter square, and in a field 1000 meters from the highway. It is there, but hardly anyone reads it.

As you develop your site, the sign moves closer to the highway and gets bigger. To increase the sign’s size and decrease the distance from the highway you must get your site listed in the major search engines’

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to all the things you can do to improve your website’s visibility in the search engines’ rankings. Search engine optimization techniques focus on increasing the ‘organic’, or natural, traffic that you receive based on your ranking within the search engines.

4. Find out who does the content writing

This is where most website owners go wrong. Website content is generally thought of as commoditized pieces of text that are needed to fill web pages. Your content is what engages the visitor and is uniquely positioned to convert prospects to customers. Some web designers have access to professional content writers to write an optimized content talking directly to your customers. Alternatively, you can provide the content to your web designer

5. Read the inclusions and know what you are getting for your money

Like many builders who have a list of inclusions for each home design, most web designers have 3 or 5 packages with a list of inclusions. It’s very important to know exactly what you are getting for your money.

Watch out for designers who ONLY charge by the ‘page or by a certain page length.’ Or even worse have a very cheap package with a high monthly maintenance fee. This could end up costing you much more money.

6. Find out details of ownership and hosting

Enquire about the ownership of the web site and the domain name. Make sure you are given full ownership of the website and access details so you have control of your website for future updates should you choose to do so without having to pay the original designer. This will ensure you can still use your website domain name in the future, even if you decide to deal with another web designer.

Many web designers and development firms also provide website hosting services. This is not only convenient for you in terms of any website’s updates and speed of portability, but can also work in your favor commercially. Ask your vendor for a competitive quote for a bundled service that includes website design, development and hosting.

7. Ask for wireframes

Before you jump headlong into awarding the contract to your web designer of choice, ask for wireframes. These are schematics of how your web pages will look like and the functionality embedded. It is the norm for designers to provide wireframes for the home page and another page, or to show you a sample version of the sequence of actions from one page to another. This will reveal the thought process of the designer as they go about conceptualizing the design for your website.

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