The evolution of the web is most evident by how websites appear and perform in browsers. During the early stages of the Internet, developers and users lacked the proper understanding on how to make a beautiful and fast-loading website by today’s standards. Because of this, most websites during the ‘90s are text-based, have different background colors that hurt the eyes, and are loaded with GIFs that bog down site speed.
To further see the discrepancy between websites then and now, it’s important to look at the different iterations of website builders and how each has been an improvement of their respective predecessors.
Founded in 1994 in Beverly Hills, Geocities held the distinction as one of the first website builders on the Internet. It allowed users to create text-based websites with the ability to customize font and background colors, as well as add image files. While wildly popular during its heyday, Geocities was unable to cover online ground as sites like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular in the mid-2000s. As a result, Geocities folded in 2009.
Throughout the years, users will fondly remember this particular website builder as host to amusingly designed web pages that load extremely slow due to the number of elements included in the page (bloated GIFs and MIDI tracks), as well as making use of arguably the most vilified font in the world – the Comic Sans.
If you were unable to experience Geocities in all its glory, a Tumblr site, One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op, has archived still-shots of Geocities web pages for your viewing pleasure.
Early WYSIWYG and HTML Builders
Due to the advancements in technology for website creators that come with understanding the needs of users, “What You See Is What You Get” builders came into fruition in early 2000s. Sites like Amaya, HighPowerSites, and SiteSkins offer a more refined approach of building websites using HTML and CSS3 languages, as well as a host of layouts and textures to choose from.
Drag & Drop Website Builders
The latest iteration of website building, the drag and drop era is divided into two periods: the Flash and HTML5 periods.
Building upon HTML builders, drag and drop editors of early 2000s enabled users to create more appealing websites without any coding experience. This type of website builders heavily incorporated Flash animation, allowing users to create dynamic content on their websites.
While adding Flash animation on websites seemed logical, load time of pages with Flash elements was slow. The underdeveloped technology of drag and drop editors also contributed to their clunky site speed.
Another factor that discouraged users from using Flash is the inability of search engines like Google to read Flash content. As a result, search engines are unable to index web pages with Flash as quickly as possible. This is becoming more important as Google provides website owner additional traffic once Google spiders index your site on search results.
To counter the speed and indexation issues, drag and drop website builders minimized – if not completely dropped – the use of Flash animation. In its place, website builders utilized HTML5, which is the current language used by highly optimized and responsive websites today. One of the more popular website builders is IM Creator, where users can choose from a range of themes and simply drag and drop elements on the page to their liking without compromising site speed, while benefiting from a plethora of beautiful free site templates. Not mention the rise of web design executing on the basis of artificial intelligence through the new Grid tool; where sites are automatically designed and evolve based on a user’s needs.
What do these builders tell us about the web?
Looking through the history of website builders, users have fully developed the understanding that viewing a website is an experience. It’s not about making your website filled with elements and features that only slow down load time, which ruin the pleasure of browsing the site. Since users strive to ensure that the experience is seamless and painless as possible, websites today load faster and perform better compared to just years ago.
Luckily, the future is still ahead of us. Who knows what kinds of improvements website builders – most importantly, the web in general – will undergo by then? Don’t blink, because the evolution might come to pass faster than it loads.