Modern Web design was (sort-of) founded at M.I.T. In 1994, after founding the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (pictured here) founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science. The group was founded to help create Web standards, a need that arose after various vendors were offering different versions of HTML. One HTML standard was eventually agreed upon, after which, the W3C was formed, and Web design history was made.
Web design has become what is it largely because of the W3C. The W3C may not have put together the first HTML specification, but it has been behind many of the technologies that have advanced Web design beyond its original form. A few examples:
- October 1996 – The first W3C recommendation is Portable Network Graphics (PNG) 1.0, a cross-platform alternative to the graphics formats most prevalent at the time.
- December 1996 – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1 is published.
- February 1998 – Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 is released, promoting interoperability and domain-specific markup, and later serving as the basis for dozens of standards.
- August 2000 – Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0, a language to describe 2D graphics in XML is released.
- May 2005 – Mobile Web Initiative is launched with the mission of making Web access from a mobile device as simple as Web access from a desktop.
The first Web site design was created by…You guessed it, Tim Berners-Lee. I guess we don’t hear too much about this because if you could put on your resume “Created the World Wide Web,” you might leave out the part about creating the first Web design. This site was created using HTML, went online on August 6, 1991, and was educational, providing information about what the World Wide Web was, how someone could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. The first version of the site no longer exists (no one thought to take a screenshot of it, perhaps?) but you can see a version from 1992 here. We’ve come a long way.
FutureSplash Animator (aka Flash). Flash didn’t arrive on the Web design scene all at once, it was developed over time by a group of people (more here about the history of Flash). And it was news to me that Macromedia didn’t develop the first version of Flash, rather, in December 1996, it acquired the vector-based animation software from FutureWave. At the time the software was called FutureSplash Animator. In 1996, Macromedia released the software as Flash. (How much better is that name?!)
Google’s ground-breaking Web design.Lots has been said about Google’s minimalistic Web design and how it greatly enhances the search experience. But the early Google designs came about due to some serious luck, at least according to 16 Interesting Facts about Google. According to the article, the Google founders didn’t know HTML and they just wanted a quick interface – hence, the spare design. In early user tests, however, they found that people would just sit and look at the screen, not taking any action. When they probed as to why, the testers would claim that they were “waiting for the rest of the page.” To combat this perception, the Google copyright message was inserted to act as the end-of-page marker.