Categories: Insights

A quick glimpse into some website evolution

Looking through the lens into website evolution

The web as we know it right now is like an awkward teenager. It has come a long way since its initial commercialisation in the late 1980s, but where to from here? What will the web look like in its full maturity, if such a thing can exist?

I write this in April 2013. Right now:

  • Google Glass is on the horizon
  • Rumors of the Apple iWatch are numerous
  • Facebook shares are falling
  • Google Plus interest is climbing
  • HTML5 and CSS3 are great, but CSS4 is scheduled
  • Modern websites are being built to incorporate mobile devices in order to be competitive

In other words, the industry is shaking up!

What is coming next?

I’m no Einstein and my sixth sense is on the fritz, but I’ve heard that a mere mortal can look forward in time by taking the time to peak into the past. Let’s see if there’s a trend to look for, shall we?

Apple 1997

Apple website in 1997 – website evolution

This sexy snapshot was taken in 1997 and shows off a very different Apple (note the offer for a free CD-ROM). Whilst containing a few less frills than a lot of other commercial sites of the day, the amount of information on the homepage is daunting. Combined with the unnecessarily detailed footer, one can see the 90s trend of over explanation. The red colour scheme is also hideously dated.

Microsoft 1999

Microsoft website in 1997 – website evolution

This screenshot shows an equally dense amount of information, though this time the navigation poses the problem. Too many links and a cheesy shot of Mr. Gates complete the site.

Apple 2003

Apple website in 2003 – website evolution

This is Apple in 2003, which is now a full decade behind us. Notice their focus on a more minimal design that starts to hone in on one topic or product? It’s clear what they’re pushing and unnecessary details have been removed.

Microsoft 2003

Microsoft website in 2003 – website evolution

Microsoft at this stage has some catching up to do. A plethora of links, a lack of structure and no real focus makes the site confusing. There was no great leap forward in design between 1999 and 2003.

So, why are these relevant today?

Take a look at Apple and Microsoft now and we see:

  • Strong product focus
  • Crisp interfaces
  • Clean design
  • Great photography and typography

Cutting the fat isn’t new for designers, and the above examples show it in action over the course of the last 15ish years.

We have transitioned from:

  • Dense links
  • Confusing information
  • Lack of focus

And moved towards:

  • Flat design
  • Responsive layouts
  • Product focus

If this trend continues we can imagine the future of the web focusing entirely on user experience.

Apple vs Microsoft modern comparison – website evolution

It’s our role as web designers and web developers to understand why these trends occur, how they occur over time and then help shape the next turn of events. It’s a truly exciting career.

Alistair Roberts :