The Web Design Concepts That Were Ahead of Their Time

Nov 21, 2022

Hard as it might be to fathom, the online has been a component of our world since CERN placed it into the general public domain in 1993. And for those who were constructing or browsing web sites during that era, you would possibly not have imagined how much design and functionality would evolve a long time later.

Using this recent and experimental medium, web designers repeatedly innovated and pushed boundaries. There have been risks involved – but that’s also what made things fun. It appeared like everybody desired to play a component in helping the online reach its potential.

In point of fact, most experiments didn’t work out. Some faltered just as quickly as they launched. On the very least, they may very well be considered good learning experiences for a young industry.

Yet there have been a number of trends, tools, and techniques that were groundbreaking – even when it took years to see them that way. Viewing the online through today’s lens, you would possibly say they were a precursor of what was to return. Without them, we may not have among the slick features we now take without any consideration.

With that, let’s take a take a look at some website design concepts that were ahead of their time.

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HTML Frames

Here’s how the W3C describes HTML frames:

HTML frames allow authors to present documents in multiple views, which could also be independent windows or subwindows. Multiple views offer designers a strategy to keep certain information visible, while other views are scrolled or replaced.

In practice, frames made it possible to display multiple HTML documents concurrently. As you would possibly expect, this led to some unique implementations. Some ended up being more useful in the true world than others.

Navigation was one in every of the more popular uses. For instance, a designer could create a vertical navigation UI inside a frame positioned on the side of the screen. Clicking a navigational item would then load the content right into a larger frame in the center.

Headers were also a natural fit for frames. The element could stay in place while the user scrolled through the important content area.

In all, these were attempts at making web sites a bit more user-friendly. There was also potential for improved performance, as clever usage could end in images only loading once per session in static frames, fairly than each page view. This was a giant deal in the times before caching was commonplace.

Looking back, frames offered an early strategy to create “sticky” elements that stay in a hard and fast position upon scroll. And while the old HTML spec has been deprecated, we will now use CSS to construct these features.

Flash Animation

Flash needed to have been one of the vital divisive technologies of the early web. On the one hand, it allowed designers to create some incredible multimedia-driven content. But it surely also had loads of drawbacks.

When entire web sites were built with Flash, they often suffered from accessibility issues. As well as, long load times were common for users with a slow web connection. And it was also known to crash an internet browser or two.

Mobile compatibility was also a sticking point. Early iOS devices didn’t support Flash, which looked as if it would seal the format’s fate for good. Adobe finally stopped supporting it at the tip of 2020 – long after its glory days were over.

Problems aside, Flash did reveal a user appetite for animation and interactive multimedia. It allowed these elements to develop into mainstream – even when the technology itself wasn’t quite there yet.

Every part from CSS animation to browser-based tools owes a debt of gratitude to Flash. It showed what the online of the long run could seem like. In time this led to a greater strategy to implement multimedia and achieve this through open standards.

Java & Vanilla JavaScript

While these two languages aren’t directly related, they combined to bring a recent level of functionality to early web sites. And each are still around, although the previous has reached well beyond the online.

Java was designed to work on multiple devices. And before databases and content management systems (CMS) were common components of a web site, the language provided a strategy to add application-like functions to a page.

For instance, consider live sports scores or news headlines. Java applets may very well be embedded to permit this kind of information to routinely update as needed. It did so independently from the page, meaning you didn’t need to hit the refresh button in your browser to see the newest version.

This paved the way in which for technologies like AJAX, which might perform similar tasks without the performance overhead. Speaking of performance, Java was incredibly slow to load back in those days. Even a comparatively small applet could make your system’s harddisk grind incessantly.

As for vanilla JavaScript, it first hit the scene in 1995. It served basic tasks like form validation and displaying alerts. But it surely also may very well be used to create what turned out to be among the many first hover effects.

Hovering over a picture, as an illustration, allowed a designer to substitute the unique with a distinct one. This was commonly utilized in image-based navigation UIs. The favored Dreamweaver WYSIWYG editor got here preloaded with a script for this very purpose.

This served as a touch of the long run. Eventually, CSS3 would offer similar visual effects. And an explosion of JavaScript frameworks from jQuery to React would develop into staples of web development.

And vanilla JavaScript hasn’t gone anywhere. More powerful than ever, some developers have chosen it over specialized frameworks.

Each of those languages gave users a taste of what the dynamic web may very well be.

JavaScript 1.0 was a joint project between Netscape and Sun Microsystems

The Seeds of the Modern Web

The net began as very much a static medium. But a number of years into its mainstream existence, web designers aimed to supply more functionality and a greater user experience. They might develop into crucial aspects in its growth.

The adoption of HTML standards, together with the appearance of CSS and JavaScript, got here along at exactly the best time. And advanced languages like Java helped to bridge a very important gap before dynamic data was inside everyone’s reach.

While those early implementations were rudimentary, they planted the seeds for what got here next. Their quirks and disadvantages provided useful lessons for the developers that built the following generation of tools. Technologies became more refined and have led to an almost seamless mixture of form and performance.

So, the following time you employ a contemporary web application, perhaps take a moment to recollect how we came. It’s been an extended journey, but one which has turned out beautifully.

Historic screen captures are courtesy of the Web Design Museum. Also be sure you try our interview with founder Petr Kovář!