From coding to clicking – how website creation has evolved over decades
Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash
Websites – they’re the basic building blocks of the internet. Whether they’re carrying videos, photos, or text, websites today come in all manners of sophisticated and eye-catching design.
It wasn’t always like this of course. People who’ve been surfing cyberspace for more than two decades will know this. Naturally, the tools for website creation would have developed over the years as well.
So let’s start at the beginning and trace the evolution of the internet.
HTML or nothing
If you’re even vaguely familiar with website architecture, you would have heard of the term HTML, or the Hypertext Markup Language
This programming language was invented in the early 1990s by people working at CERN, also known as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (they’re also the people more recently behind the giant particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider).
It enabled them to organise information into columns and rows by using the <table> function. Because they intended only to create a fully text-based website, HTML sufficed at that point. (Though it should be noted that while websites today are far more complex, HTML remains the fundamental foundation of a lot of stuff online.)
With HTML at their disposal, the CERN folks launched…
The very first website
It was made out of entirely text about what the “World Wide Web” was. Looks wise, it can plainly be described as a list of hyperlinks.
But you don’t have to take our word for it, the website is still online after more than 20 years, so check it out for yourself! You’ll see that the default blue text for hyperlinks was already a thing back then.
The search engine is born
Just two years after the world’s first website was introduced, Aliweb –regarded as the first search engine – came online.
It not only organised links into helpful categories such as entertainment, living, and shopping, it also deployed colour as a means of making the site more user-friendly and easy to navigate.
If you’re wondering what this colour milestone looks like, you’re in luck because the site is also still live today – and we don’t mean it’s just online. Click on the links and you’ll find they still work!
Web development leaps forward
Around the same time, the release of a new version of HTML, HTML 2.0, enabled support for graphics and other forms beyond simple tables.
The next year, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) made its debut. While HTML continued to handle the content of a site, CSS governed its style and was where elements like colour and typography were outlined.
One early example of a site in this new era is CNN’s year in review for 1996. It took advantage of the web’s new capabilities by displaying photos, graphics, and design elements in its presentation of the 10 biggest news stories of the year.
Macromedia Flash also took the stage, enabling web animation to be displayed. This required the Flash plugin extension and some of you would remember blank areas on websites when the plugin was not installed.
Flash had a good run of about 25 years before Adobe pulled the plug by ending support and Windows removed it from all browsers.
Of blogs and social media
The turn of the century, from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, saw the rise of user generated content.
Firstly, writing an online log of our daily lives and thoughts became a worldwide phenomenon and several content management systems – Blogger, Open Diary, Live Journal, WordPress, to name a few – sprouted to meet the demand of seemingly everyone wanting a personal blog.
WordPress, in particular, has come to dominate the content management system landscape, powering over half of websites today that use such a system.
As for social media, MySpace was launched in 2003 followed by Facebook the next year. One of them is no longer around while the other is now a juggernaut in online advertising and owns other popular apps like WhatsApp and Instagram.
The mobile era dawns
With the explosion in popularity of smartphones from the mid-2000s onwards, surfing the web on small screens became increasingly common.
Websites no longer had to look good on desktop monitors but also on screens in the palms of users. Responsive web design became the buzzword, and websites scrambled to be able to detect the type of device and translate their content accordingly.
The responsive web movement was given added urgency when Google began accounting for having a responsive web design in its search ranking.
Website as a service
Another relatively new development is the advent of website builders that easy-to-use services for anyone who wants to build a website. They can click, drag and drop to design their websites instead of having to code.
These builders also offer to host your newly built site for a fee, delivering an end-to-end product. Aspiring website owners can do it themselves without having to learn coding and deal with the intricacies of hosting a website.
Digitalisation keeps rolling
Websites will doubtless continue to evolve. The government is committed to keeping pace with tech advances and helping Singaporeans along in the digitalisation journey, such as through IMDA’s programme to make digital simple for SMEs.
Hopefully we’ve also inspired you to try out building your own website, be it through a website building service or perhaps going old-school and picking up coding to make one from scratch!https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/how-website-creation-has-evolved-over-decades