Why Does Web Design Change So Much?

White keyboard keys spelling out 'XHTML'

When you look at all aspects of the digital media industry, you’ll generally see a lot of change. Some resources will have come and gone, others will have been introduced and remained almost exactly as they are and there are plenty more that although are called the same, continue to change on what seems like an almost monthly basis.

And web design is a perfect example of something that falls into the latter category.

But why is this the case? Why exactly does web design – or more accurately, the principles behind just what makes a great website – change so much?

The answer, fortunately, is a simple one – and it’s because our expectations as consumers are continually developing.

15 years ago, we didn’t really have any expectations for a company’s website. We knew we wanted to see a company have a website and often favoured a brand over another if they did, but there wasn’t a great deal we expected a website to have other than basic functionality to give us access to things like company contact details.

10 years ago, as internet usage was really taking off, we became aware of what made a good website experience. We could clearly spot a website that hadn’t been updated in several years and we started to want more than content and the occasional image.

5 years ago, things had changed once again and no longer was a static website expected. Instead, we wanted a website that offered an experience; one that made us want to return to it time and time again and from a company’s point of view, ensure we chose them over a competitor.

Just three milestones in the history of web design, the reality is things changed considerably between them all and it hasn’t been just three clear changes, but almost gradual development. And it’s all because – and all will be because – we come to rely more and more on the internet and want it to deliver a bigger and better experience than has been possible before.

As consumers, we’re becoming more and more aware of just what’s possible on a digital level. You may not know how a website should be designed or even what HTML or CSS actually are, but that’s almost irrelevant – you know what you’d like to experience and you expect the companies you want to engage with to deliver a website to these expectations.

Web design, just like SEO (or search marketing, as it’s coming to be known), is always going to change. The actual basic principles may remain the same, but there’s little doubt that this time next year, there’ll be certain differences as to what makes a website great compared to what makes one great today – and in just a few years time, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to see a clear, noticeable difference in websites designed then and now, all because consumer expectations are changing.