When we were first introduced to the internet, IT departments built and managed the majority of websites due to the complexity of the programming. Today, website design has become an industry all on its own. Great web designs have led some businesses to grow and prosper while bad web presences lead others to fail. Your website is much more than a validation tool. Today's web designs require more than great image placement. Designers must consider load speed, content placement, user experience, and SEO optimization, not to mention designers must now consider how a website looks on multiple screens.
For many of your prospective customers, it's your digital front door. Let's take a journey through the history of website design and look at some of the most influential website designs and how they have impacted the entire industry over the past 30+ years.
In the early days of website design, the only real way to add structure was through the power of the <table>. With so much limitation, many of the early sites were pretty basic. The original purpose of tables was to create a structure for numbers, but designers quickly used them to create site structure. The problem was these structures were very fragile and difficult to maintain. There were some benefits, such as the ability to align elements vertically. Tables also paved the way for the grids of the future.
As mobile internet use increased, mobile design became #1. In 2010 a brilliant and driven web designer named Ethan Marcotte challenged the way mobile website design was being approached. Instead of creating a separate mobile site, he proposed that the same content could be used, but in different layouts and designed depending on screen size. This was the birth of Responsive Design.
From a technical standpoint, we still use HTML and CSS, so it is rather a conceptual advancement. The main benefit of Responsive Design is the content parity, meaning that it's the same website everywhere.
As of December 2015, there were more than 935,000,000 websites published as a part of the world wide web. Google began to make consistent algorithm adjustments to combat black hat linking tactics. With so many platform improvements the competition to be found organically on the internet became more and more challenging.
By this time, even traditional brick-and-mortar stores understood the need for a strong digital presence. More than that, many websites were becoming a company's "best salesperson".
Growth-Driven Design takes a systematic approach to SEO optimization to help ensure that companies are spending time attracting the right visitors and closing better leads, which results in a better ROI and faster revenue growth. The best businesses understand that their website is never "finished." Instead, they work with marketers to ensure that their website adapts and grows with their users.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest, all functioned as search engines much like Google and Yahoo. This increased the demand for content and marketers were stretched further every month.
Relevant internal and external backlinks are a vital part of helping Google understand your website's context and authority. The need for white hat backlinks also increases the pace at which companies begin pushing content on social. The metrics to accurately measure the ROI of social selling are not fully understood, however, sales professionals believe in the power of social selling.
Today's marketers understand that a company's website is often the first opportunity they will have to connect with a potential customer. Complementary colors, an eye-catching logo, and pages that present the mission of the company are all important. Web design must also incorporate clear navigation, relevant content, and images that relate to the products or services.
Load time is an essential part of the overall design and cannot be ignored. With millions of websites to browse, a slow site is not worth waiting for these days.
Each page must incorporate SEO optimization on all images as well as meta descriptions and title tags. A great design may look nice, but it will not help Google find you.
As Google continues to tweak their algorithm for semantic search marketers who stick to SEO best practices and track their progress using Google Analytics, they will be able to make small adjustments based on insights about how their website ranks in search, organic traffic, referring sites, and the most popular pages on their website.
A very recent impact on the history of website design was the 2020 pandemic. During the pandemic, there was a significant surge in global searches for the term “build a website”. For example, in African nations, the query, ‘how to build a business website’ saw a 110% rise. Businesses worldwide searched to find out how to either improve and update their existing website or build a new one in order to retain customers and attract new ones as much of the globe shifted online.
Website builders are the perfect solution for businesses to create a digital front door to showcase their services and sell products. We’ll talk about WordPress, Wix, and Webflow and highlight some of the key differences between them.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) and remains a dominant player with 60.8% of the CMS market, powering 41.4% of all websites with continual growth year after year. The biggest advantage to WordPress is the fact that it’s open-source, self-hosted, and free to build in. This means that you have full control over your website compared to any other website builder today. The only costs incurred are for a domain name, hosting plan, and if required, plugin upgrades to pro versions. WordPress is jam-packed with SEO-friendly themes, plugins, and tools. When all of the WordPress SEO features are utilized, your site is a big step closer to the top of Google's SERPs.
The only potential downside to WordPress is that you have to manage the site yourself or hire your hosting provider or a marketing agency to maintain the site for you.
Wix continues to be a market leader. It’s a fully hosted cloud-based website builder with a drag and drop interface that offers monthly payment plans. The company hosts 2.3% of all websites worldwide and is fairly easy to navigate with hundreds of design templates to choose from.
Wix has been notorious for having poor SEO options, from a terrible URL structure to not being able to add alt attributes, to name a few issues. According to a 2019 article released by Wix, they’ve created a new suite of SEO tools, making big improvements for their users.
Webflow is a website builder and hosting company that more than doubled its market share in 2020 and continues to grow in popularity. They offer over 100 templates, marketing tools, e-commerce, and more all under one roof, plus versatile plans from free to Pro. The downside to using Webflow compared to WordPress is free vs. paying monthly fees and less control over your website.
Looking back at the history of websites over the last 30 years, it's amazing to see how much has changed. And because change is constant, one can only imagine what the next 30 years holds for website design.
When making the decision about what website builder or CMS to choose for your new website, it will depend on a number of factors, from your budget, to your needs and priorities, to what SEO features are available, to who will be responsible for the website design and maintenance. There are so many options to choose from that it will take time and research to determine what works best for your business.
At SMA Marketing, we specialize in website builds and rebuilds and website care that includes maintenance, updates, and hosting. Reach out to us today and we’ll be happy to help you!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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