How web design and technology has changed

I’m Harry Hayes – the senior web designer at Blue Whale Media, Warrington. I’ve been in web design for nineteen years, and I have seen it take many different forms in that time. As we enter into 1999, I thought it might be interesting to look back over the past two decades, and share how much things have changed in web technology from my perspective.

How I got started in web design

I was originally a sculptor working for a company that designed and manufactured animated figures for seasonal displays in shopping centres, and also large scale replicas of world-famous statues for theme parks. I moved onto different opportunities but eventually found that staying in this field was becoming increasingly difficult.

I decided it was time to make a real change and adopt a chameleon approach and try something different. The year was 1999 and the web was very hot indeed – it was the new Goldrush. I already had a computer and a keen interest in the early web, so I bought as many books as I could and intensively researched HTML and Javascript.

The Millennium Bug

No one knew what to expect as the year 2000 approached. Whether the Millennium Bug actually existed and every machine on the planet would throw a hissy-fit or simply stop. In the early days, computer engineers used a two-digit code for the year. The “19” was left out. Instead of a date reading ‘1970’, it read ‘70’. The date was shortened because data storage in computers was costly and took up a lot of space.

As the year 2000 approached, computer programmers realised that computers might not interpret ‘00’ as ‘2000’, but as 1900. This left potential flaws in a lot of programs. As December 31, 1999, turned into January 1, 2000, computers might interpret December 31, 1999, turning into January 1, 1900. In short, however, it was much easier than anyone expected and everyone was left wondering just what all the fuss was about. This was also the year that all my hard work paid off, and I landed my first position in web design.

Technology then

In the year 2000, most screen sizes were 800 x 600. Seems crazy doesn’t it now when you consider that my work-station at Blue Whale Media has dual 1920 x 1080 wide-screen monitors. This had a profound effect on what you could achieve with screen layout. Remember also, that there was no broadband. Everyone accessed the web through an ASDL or Dial-up modem that used your phone line to access the internet. It was slow, and sometimes buggy.

CSS

CSS was still relatively young, and although it gave you more control over your layout than HTML alone, it was a pale shadow compared to what it can do today, including animation, blending, Typewriter effect, Frosted Glass with CSS filters, Counters, Pure CSS Tooltips, Intelligent grids with the calc() function, Animations with cubic-bezier(), Using HTML elements as Background Images and much more.

Google and Smart Technology

There’s no doubt about it, Google and has literally changed our perspective of the world. Their early beginnings rocked the world as clearly the best search engine out there. Their ethos for quality content is always ahead of the game keeping the web a fairer, more honest experience. But their acquisition of YouTube in 2006 has made a real impact commercially and uncommercially alike, again moving the goal posts once again and changing the way we author and market websites.

It’s a sobering thought that 36% of the world’s population own a Smartphone – a pocket computer in itself, capable of streaming media and sharing information that creates further opportunities for the technology market to evolve. This is possibly the most significant factor in changing the way we approach web design – everything must be responsive now. Screen resolutions will continue to grow, as will the demand on processors and graphics cards to keep up with the demand of an escalating market greedy for speed. I wonder where we will be 10 years from now.

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