Websites Then and Now: What Changed in the Past 25 Years

Since the creation of the first website 25 years ago, web design has evolved so much! Every year we see new and new trends coming out and replacing techniques and tricks we used to think were cool in the past.

Just a few years after the first website emerged, traditional companies also realized that they need an online presence. One of the first notable offline businesses that launched their website was Pizza Hut that started collecting online reservations in 1995.

And, in 25 years went from 0 to over 1 billion and from static text only layouts to beautiful designs created by some of the most creative professionals.

In this article, we’ve collected some of the most remarkable differences between the websites in the past and websites now. Some of them were used due to purely technological reasons. Others were just a trend which seems very outdated, or even ridiculous now.

Let’s see what’ve got!

Static text heavy websites vs. Pieces of art

Websites then:

In the beginning of the web era websites didn’t have any design at all. They were just plain text. The reason why websites looked like this was purely because of technological reasons. On the one hand, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language, or the markup that we use to structure our web pages) didn’t allow creating layouts. On the other hand, internet connections were pretty slow back then, which meant that websites needed to be as basic as possible.

Websites now:

Nowadays, we can easily say that there are absolutely no restrictions in terms of what your website could look like. This inspired many creative designers to experiment more and more. We constantly see websites that are pure pieces of art.



Table based layout vs. No strict positioning of elements

Websites then:

As we said, the first websites didn’t have any design at all. But with the advance of the web technology it became possible for developers to create layouts. For many years the table-based layout was the rule. It allowed designers to easily structure the content of their website, dividing their texts into columns and raws.

Websites now:

Any website that uses the table-based approach these days looks pretty outdated. Web designers ditched this approach years ago for several reasons. The first and main one is that there is not so much content nowadays to be organized. Of course, this doesn’t mean that web designers don’t make a solid structure of their website, but that content is organized with the final goal of the website in mind and elements do not have a strict position on the web page.

Flash vs. HTML and CSS

Websites then:

As we mentioned above, in the beginning websites were consisting of only texts without any design whatsoever. A few years later there was the table based content with a lot of design elements. But these design elements were still looking very basic and were lacking functionalities. And, a few more years later, there came Flash. The technology became popular in the late 90s and gave designers a lot of new possibilities, such as 3d buttons, fancy colors, changing text, animations and much more.

Websites now:

Flash was looking very cool at the time but it had a few very big disadvantages. It was literally a SEO nightmare as search engines like Google couldn’t index it at all. This meant that flash websites didn’t existed for search engines. In the same time, web technologies advanced very much and it became possible to achieve very sophisticated design not having to use Flash.

Too much design vs Minimalistic design

Websites then:

When it first became possible for people to actualy design their websites, designers were putting as much design elements as possible. This way most websites were full of animations, colors, shapes, textures, etc. If you see a website from 10-15 years ago, you will notice that it has a lot of text and very few white space.

Websites now:

Nowadays most designers use the minimalistic approach. In web design we call minimalism the trend to create clean, even basic designs, without many texts and other design elements. Minimalistic websites tend to look tidy and better organized. They are calming and clearly show visitors what the website is about and what are they expected to do.



Heavy on page optimization vs. Conversion rate optimization

Websites then:

Optimization has been a thing as soon as people realized the great power of search engines. In the beginning, heavy on-page optimization was the way to succeed. You needed to use your keyword as much as possible – a technique we call keyword stuffing, and you had a pretty big chance that your rankings would be boosted.

Webistes now:

SEO has changed a lot over the past 10 years. All the old techniques, such as the keyword stuffing are dead now. Apart from that, a lot of new waves came into existence – conversion rate optimization (CRO), growth hacking, online advertising, social media, etc. This means that in order to bring visitors to your website, you need a very complex marketing strategy, involving not only SEO, but tons of other online marketing techniques.

Manual coding vs. Automated website builders

Websites then:

In the beginning, there were neither Content Management Systems (CMS), nor website builders such as Oxxy. The only way to have a website was to manually code it. As you may imagine, this was a pretty slow and frustrating job.

Nowadays, you don’t need to know coding skills if you want to have your own website. The advance of web technologies made possible the creation of complex platforms as ours that lets even newbies become web designers. Even with the inventing of CMS systems, people that wanted to create a website, needed to have programming skills. Website builders are the first tools that let inexperienced people create their online presence all on their own. In the same time, website builders are evolving. They are now letting users create very complex websites with a lot of functionalities.

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