The Changing Face of Website Design


website design

Website Design Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Website design is continually changing, just as it has done in the past.  From old, clunky, text-heavy sites with brash animated images and scrolling text, now we have a far more sophisticated image-led approach.

Today web design is all about telling a story and encouraging the reader to want to know more. The focus is on providing some very attractive bait and then hooking your viewer in a way that they thoroughly enjoy.

Websites of the past

Let’s take a ‘Back to the Future’ journey and look at how websites used to look and how they have changed.

Website design

Looking back at the older website designs today, they look incredibly ‘boxy’ with lots of pages.  These have now been replaced by key homepages that are image-savvy. Sites are now fluid and no longer restricted to box-like templates. Even more importantly, they now have to work on every type of device.


Accessibility was also a nightmare for viewers, leaving them feeling frustrated a lot of the time.  Similarly, whereas website owners today can make basic changes to their own sites, even this was not available.  Overall the accessibility issue in the past was a troublesome area.

Words – words – everywhere

Forget images. Websites of the past wanted to tell the viewer everything. Tempting visitors to read further was not even considered.  Images and videos were at the back of the pile.  Today, images are everything and real-life unique photos tell a story. Even unprofessional film can be considered charming when used in the right environment.

Web 2.0

This was a term that first surfaced in 2004. It allowed users to collaborate online via user-generated content in a virtual community.  This was unlike the original World Wide Web or Web 1.0 where viewers were limited to viewing content passively.  You could say that this was the very first basic type of social media although not identical as it did not include such things as blogs or even YouTube.

Websites of today

Today, Google has a major impact on websites.  It likes those that are fresh and with changing high-value content.  HTTPS is definitely a must-have in order to show the security level.  If your content is not relevant and informative and instead just filler, using repetitive text, Google will penalize you.  Google is incredibly clever so if you have duplicate pages or associate with certain disreputable SEO providers, you can even be banned from their index. This means that you go to the very bottom of the SEO pile.

Today the trend is to do your own thing and actually move away from what others are doing. You could view it as a sort of regression and going back to a simpler way of life. So what is ‘in’ when it comes to website design of today?


Say goodbye to carousels, which have been way overused.  This is good news but the downside is that some sites are replacing them with auto-play video banners.  These cannot last for long as users on mobiles or those with slow internet connections are going to shun them.

Responsive design

Currently, this is a must-have with good website designers. Websites need to be viewable on any type of device, including all mobiles. This doesn’t mean that desktop browser experiences should suffer.  The secret is to use space efficiently whilst constantly delivering a superior user experience.


Take a look around and you will see that many marketing agencies are increasing their use of storytelling.  This is a well-used way of drawing in the viewer with a high-quality narrative, rather than just a list of product descriptions.  Clever web designers will use content of this type along with high-quality personalized images and videos to move away from the commercial focus and more onto the relationship side, building honest rapport with viewers.

Going forward

So now we find ourselves in 2019 and very much confronted with the mobile-first design strategy. Mobiles are red-hot now when it comes to websites, yet many designers have been stuck designing responsive sites – beginning with a desktop site and then making it work on mobiles too.  But doesn’t this sound rather back-to-front?  In today’s market, this just doesn’t make sense. Desktops are fading away and mobiles taking over, so shouldn’t mobiles come first? Enter ‘mobile-first’ design where the website is created for the devices that everyone is using at the moment, that will also work on a desktop (as a secondary thought).

Google has jumped onto this concept heavily and made it clear that mobile-first has to be the way forward.  Whilst responsive design has been good enough for a long time, now mobile-first is going to knock this for six.  Whilst responsive and mobile-first design are similar, the methods, approaches, and strategies used are very different:

Mobile responsive

With this type of web design, CSS is used to adjust the site to be viewable on any type of device. The coding is complex and the desktop design still takes priority.  Very simply, the site is built for desktop users, then made to work on mobiles later.


This is based upon a different design strategy.  Using a mobile responsive framework, mobile users’ needs are considered first.  Rather than create a desktop website and make it fit mobiles, the opposite happens; the website designer considers the mobile needs first.

For many years, mobile websites have been the poor relation to desktop, and very much an afterthought.  Yet consider that 52.64% of all internet traffic comes from a mobile device and you will see that Google is right.


Website design trends have altered dramatically since the 90s and continue to do so. Not only how they look but how they function has changed. Gone are the brash animated images and rolling text of the 90s. Today’s social media has replaced the Web 2.0 movement. Add into the mix the current trend towards mobile-first, strongly supported by Google, and you have just a glimpse of what the future may bring.

ALT Agency is a leading Birmingham-based website design company offering website design, web development, SEO, and website maintenance.