Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The History of Web Design - Do you know where it all started...

To understand the history of website design you first need to know a little about where websites came from. Function and design have been the two driving forces behind website development over the years and one has always affected the other.

Birth of the World Wide Web

The internet was actually born out of a need for easier communication in the 1950s. Using it, certain institutions were able to carry out basic social interactions and share information with each other across a computer shared network. Think of a very basic Dropbox system combined with Wikipedia and perhaps a blog-type format.


The First Website
From this, in the 1990s, people started to actually create their own landing pages on this network. Access to these pages was gained by simply typing in an address into the address bar on the browser used at the time. These then developed into websites and web pages. The first of these was built in August of 1991, a physicist named Tim Berners-Lee created it from his NeXT computer located at the CERN facility in the Swiss Alps.

At the time, Berners-Lee didn’t have that big of an audience to impress (basically just his colleagues at CERN) and it was all about the functionality and making the information available to an audience. It was then realised that websites could be used as a marketing or advertising tool and represent businesses and companies, generating revenue.

To give you a better idea, from the years 1990 to 1993, 50 websites were built. Then in the following 2 years, 1994 to 1996, 100,000 websites were set up - which was a rapid increase as people began to understand the true potential of the internet and websites.

Web design actually came into its own much later when the number of websites began to increase even further and it became the norm for all companies and businesses to have them. Website design gave those companies a way to stand out from the competition and it is still that way today more than ever.


To better understand the evolution of website design, there are a few important milestones to explore.


1. The Invention of HTML

As you can see in the example above, text based websites came first and were written using something known as first generation HTML which stands for Hypertext Markup Language. As you can imagine, these were very plain and there was little room for creativity.

2. Images and Tables
However, soon after came the ability to accompany this text with images in a tabular structure. And then, images could even be part of the website's background.

http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/jam.htm
The Space Jam website is great example of these early websites where website design was just beginning to flourish. It has been kept live on the web by fans and has a truly nostalgic feel for those who remember the Internet's early days.

3. Flash
Later a technology known as Flash started being used on websites in 2008. It gave designers and developers the ability to display a huge variety of visual effects and even had interactive capabilities. It could replicate movement or be similar to watching a film or video game. 


Flash is still used in special circumstances today. Click here to experience some of the top Flash based websites from 2014.


But overall it has begun to be phased out due to it being considered 'clunky' and even causing the slowing down of load times. Flash also cannot display on mobiles, making it a huge disadvantage in this era of smart devices. The last nail in the coffin for Flash was that search engines such as Google cannot read Flash elements and even punishes websites that use it for this reason. This can be crippling to online presence so updating is strongly advised.

In the fall of Flash, we saw website functionality limiting design and modern websites were reverting back to the format of the early days where text was the most important element. Features such as hit counters and background music also become obsolete and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) became the most important aspect in driving the evolution of design and the trends that would follow.

You might be interested to see some other early websites that feature HTML and Flash elements alongside their current, optimised counterparts:

The early Google Home Page alongside today's
The early Marine Resources Home Page alongside today's
Our very own website in the early days early alongside our most recent redesign



4. CSS
Come the year 2000, CSS was starting to be widely used on websites in partnership with HTML. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and gave website designers a huge amount of options in terms of the way elements built into websites displayed. Websites began to have a more uniform and creative appearance and it is often thought of as the father of design-based website branding.

CSS contains the instructions the website needs on what fonts and colours to display (among other things) and how to be laid out. It is placed in a separate document to the content on the website and provides more flexibility and control in the specification of design and presentation.

Explore some great websites that make the most of their Cascading Style Sheets here.

The Future
Other technologies have been developed over the years to give website design more options and website designers the ability to be even more creative. Among these are Javascript and jQuery and inevitably even more will be developed in the future and this will help website design to evolve even further.

In our next blog post we'll focus more on the trends found in web design today and what may have brought them about.

Websites are a really exciting form of media as they are a unique blend of purpose, functionality and design. Out of their purpose came the need and inspiration to make them exciting, design-based works. But the design must always have a purpose. Whether that be to be informative, or to be a platform for communication or to even be a way to advertise, the history of websites and web design clearly shows this. I'm sure whatever the future holds will be just as interesting and we at Toolkit Websites, can't wait to see it.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The future of web design: Where web design is going…

In this ever-evolving discipline, it’s always been a challenge to keep up to date with latest web design trends and ideas. The explosion of the mobile market as well as tablets and similar devices has seen people browsing the Internet on the go, and using a personal computer to access the web far less.

“Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 24% to 58%.”

Because of this, web design in itself has had to adapt as well. Gone are the days where you can build a website to just look good in a browser. Now, websites need to be accessible on a myriad of devices, due to the increased level of choice people have when it comes to “surfing the net.”

Not only does this mean that responsive design has taken centre stage, it also means that trends such as “flat design” and “parallax scrolling” have become increasingly popular among those wanting their website to stand out and clearly showcase their message.

For now, we can see that website design is heading towards a more simplistic, stripped back and minimal design style, with people preferring an uncluttered and easy to navigate site. There is a rise in popularity for websites that are open plan, larger in width and focus on beautiful graphics, typography and imagery.

Gone are the days where websites are built in three columns with rigid sidebars, paragraphs of text and blocky flash animation headers. The future of web design shows us throwing these routine elements out of the window and using the space to tell a story. No more blocks, or rigid boxes.

The idea of design is now moving more towards a pageless website experience, where you only need to scroll to journey through the site. No more clicking back and fourth or being inundated with blocks of vast information… the idea is for it to be much more fluid. This style makes for a seamless experience, ending the need for link hunting or any other type of point and click guesswork.

Because pageless design needs to be well thought out and planned, the website creator would need to carefully think about their content, making it clear and concise about what their business has to offer. This in turn makes the overall message more powerful than if you had a complicated page structure for the user to try and navigate.

To summarise, it is difficult to predict the future of web design, because it’s an ever-changing entity. The way things are looking now though, shows that mobile and tablet usage is on the increase and doesn’t look set to go anywhere any time soon. Flat design, Parallax scrolling and one page websites will probably become much more widely used, enabling ease of use and creating a positive and enjoyable experience for the end user.


Find out more about Toolkit Websites, Web Design in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and how they can help your business grow.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Social September - All About Instagram:

Popular with the public for its clean design and easy to use dashboard, many businesses and brands have included Instagram in their digital marketing strategy. With over 150 million monthly users, Instagram is a way of sharing images with captions to a wide range of people, and is a great way at getting to your target audience in a more visual way of advertising.

As they say, a picture paints a thousand words!

Free Advertising

With this social media app, you can provide window-shopping opportunities for your followers, giving them a taste of your products and services. You can include useful information in the caption, such as location details, price, and anything else to intrigue your followers.

Engaging with your target audience

People buy from people and Instagram will help you to create that emotional connection with your audience. The great thing here is that it allows you to share the day-to-day experiences of your business whilst giving a personal feel to your brand.  Behind the scene photos and employee images tend to rank well on Instagram. When you attend a social event, start work on a new project, take part in a charity event, visit a particularly good restaurant, go on holiday to a beautiful city, or celebrate a success in your business… make sure you capture the event on camera. Knowing what’s happening in your world keeps your organisation fresh in your target audiences mind.

Every business needs a personality behind the brand, because the more human a business comes across the more likely you are going to engage your target audience and open up discussion about your products and services. Not just that, but it also becomes a memorable visual image, which is a lasting impression on potential customers.

Increase In Traffic

Although you can’t add clickable links to every Instagram update it can be a great source of traffic driving. Because Instagram is visual, it’s more about making your brand visible, and getting noticed.

In a nutshell, having a selection of accounts, from Facebook to Twitter, and YouTube to Instagram helps reach the largest audience possible, and increase brand awareness even further.  By integrating Instagram into your social media marketing campaign, you can give your online following insight into your company in new ways.


Find out more about Toolkit Websites, Web Design in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and how they can help your business grow.

Friday, 19 September 2014

My Work Experience with Toolkit Websites

My name is Jasmein and I've just completed 2 weeks work experience at Toolkit Websites and they've let me blog about it!

My time at Toolkit Websites has been amazing. In the two weeks I spent here I have never felt left out or felt like I have had nothing to do as I have always been given some sort of important responsibility, which has taught me a lot during my time here, especially having to use my own initiative.

My first lesson was being taught how to work within their systems, which is where you edit websites and find information about the clients. I have realised the importance of meeting deadlines and working together as a team to satisfy clients. I noticed how Toolkit Websites do everything they can to fulfil their clients wishes.

My first day was quite rewarding, because I learnt so much as the manager David Swan took a lot of time out of his own work to teach me how to edit websites through The Toolkit system and add content. Compared to other work experience stories, I was expecting to be given duties of filing and faxing or perhaps making tea or coffees but in fact every morning I would come in, and I would already have my tea or coffee on the desk for me and a work list ready to be started.







Most days I have been working on updating websites,  adding content, or making small changes that make all the difference to any of our 2,000 clients sites. This also involved updating websites that were short of content and to locate decent copy for each site I had to research their business, history and industry to provide relevant information for their web pages. This means Toolkit Websites can help their clients with content and go the extra mile during the build process.

I was also required to provide updates of the changes I made to each individual website to the Project Manager who is in charge of its build. This was great because I worked with them in order to achieve the website, design and content the client desired.

I always carried out my duties independently, and having the chance to use my own intuitive was great because I felt just like everyone else and not an outsider. I felt like my work was trusted.

My biggest achievement during my time at Toolkit Websites has been completing my deadlines. I was given a list of jobs to finish before my work experience came to an end but I completed this list way before the deadline whilst carrying out other duties within the team. For me the best part of my time at Toolkit Websites was that I felt like my work was always appreciated and important.

All the project managers who work within the company were always very polite and helpful. They always made me feel like I could ask for help and they wouldn’t just tell me how to do something they would show me.

I also noticed how positive the relationship was between all the workers and how the company would re-enforce this idea by planning outside activities and also having internal meetings every week to discuss what projects everyone has been working on and the progress of their work. I was also invited into this meeting, which again never made feel left out because I was also talking about my own experience and the design projects I was working on.

I came here not knowing a lot about websites and now I can say I do. It has improved my knowledge on websites and I have experienced what a day in the life of Toolkit Websites is like.  I would definitely recommend this experience to other people who many be interested as it has been a pleasure working here and I would definitely do it all over again.


Find out more about Toolkit Websites, Web Design in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and how they can help your business grow.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Social September - Don’t make a hash of it!

Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users post up to 140 character updates, on topics of their choice. People use twitter in many ways these days, some as a newsfeed by following prominent people or networks, or simply as a way to follow friends and family and their personal lives.

Twitter is best known for its “hashtag” feature, in which users label their tweets. Hashtags contain no spaces or punctuation and begin with a “#” symbol.

Twitter users create trending topics by using hash tags. For instance, a business might create a hashtag as a way to start a conversation, and the more people that use the hashtag the more likely it is that the hash tag will trend. You have the ability to click on the hashtags that are trending to view people’s tweets on that very topic, meaning that all tweets are grouped by topic and are easy to filter.

For example, if we created a tweet that said: #asktoolkitwebsites, and multiple people responded with questions such as:

“Do you host domains? #asktoolkitwebsites”
“Can you design my website from Southampton #asktoolkitwebsites”
“How do I change the text on my website in the Toolkit #asktoolkitwebsites”
“How can I pay my design invoice? #asktoolkitwebsites”

Then whoever clicked on the hashtag #asktoolkitwebsites would see all of those tweets grouped in one feed, for them to read.

A Twitter hashtag ties conversations from different users together into one feed, which you can find by searching the hashtag in Twitter Search or by clicking on it from a post you have seen. If Twitter users who are not otherwise connected talk about the same topic using a specific hashtag, their tweets will appear in the same stream.

Hashtags allow you to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share info related to it.

If you decide to create a hashtag for your Twitter business account, you will need to make sure you promote the Hashtag by incorporating it into your other marketing materials.

A hashtag is only useful if people know about it. So to generate conversations using your hashtag, start adding it your existing resources and channels. For instance, every time you send an email, include the hashtag into your email signature. Or you can add it to your social media sharing links, and on your website for people to be aware of.

#ToolkitWebsites #PassionateSupport


Find out more about Toolkit Websites, Web Design in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and how they can help your business grow.