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The Internet Moves Fast - or Does it?

As a web designer, I must keep up with fast moving technology. For example, just 6 years ago, I wasn't thinking much about mobile devices accessing websites as most people were using their desktops or laptops. However, as at today (in 2018), the majority of web browsing takes place on a mobile device. That's how quickly things can change in the world of web design.

I find it one of the exciting aspects of the job. Not only do I love how fast things move, it makes life much less boring, but 99% of the time the changes represent amazing advancements.

It means the job is much more complicated these days but things are more complicated for good reason. You can do so much more. In the past, the job was quite complicated for the wrong reasons. For example:

Who Remembers Netscape Navigator?

When I started designing websites in the late 1990s, the usual method was to design for all browsers and then fiddle evrything so that it worked on Netscape Navigator, This browser was incredibly popular, in fact before Microsoft came on the scene with Internet Explorer it was the go-to browser for nearly everybody. But its implementation of HTML (the language used to add content to web pages) and CSS (the language that looks after the design and layout) started to go against the crowd. Everyone else moved in one direction and Netscape in another,

By the early 2000s, designing websites was a nightmare. You would spend half your time designing the site and half the time fiddling everything so that it worked on all browsers.

This went on for many years as people stuck rigidly to this browser and things were made worse when Microsoft introduced version 6 of Internet Explorer, which implemented everything differently and appallingly.

Thankfully, things started to improve when the Firefox browser was released. It stuck close to standard HTML and CSS specifications and became popular. This improvement accelerated when Google introduced its Chrome browser. This was even more popular and was just as good with its implementation.

This means that nowadays, I stick to the latest HTML and CSS rules and I can be confident that everything will work and look the same in all browsers. There are minor exceptions but it is enough to say that web browsers have finally all caught up with where we should be.

The Death of Flash (Thank Goodness)

Adobe's Flash was extremely popular in the noughties. It was insecure and was harmful to search engine results but it was very popular with businesses as it made their websites look super modern. It was also the go-to system to display video on the web.

Along came HTML5 with brought with it many of the capabilities of Flash and I embraced this new technology as it was fast, secure and let you do many of the things customers wanted for more modern and anmimated websites. However, Flash remained stubbornly popular as many companies and web designers were too lazy to move on.

Thanks go here to Apple and their iPad. The iPad became very popular very quickly and was one of the first environments not to support Flash. Therefore everyone had to start removing it from their websites in order to satisfy the growing army of people surfing the Internet on their iPads and iPhones.

A few sites stubbornly hold onto Flash to display video, despite the excellent HTML5 video specification. But Flash's fate is already sealed. It is dying and the web will be the richer for it.

PNG Pong

Alost all websites of the late 1990s had some sort of animated graphic. These were usually a GIF file. GIF files were excellent because they allowed animation and also allowed you to have transparent areas in your image which is great for design.

However, GIF files had two main flaws. The compression was quite poor so large files or complex animations would end up with large file sizes. It was also limited to 256 colours which is very limiting for intricate designs or photos.

Quite early on, a new format, PNG, was made available and many browsers implemented support quite early on. PNG has great compression, allows transparency and also supports true colour. This was a web designer's dream.

However, because Internet Explorer was slow to adopt all the benefits of PNG files, it took a while for this excellent technology to catch on.

The Future of Web Design

Thankfully, the amateur days are behind us on we are moving faster with improvements as most browsers are quite broadly comparable in their implementation of HTML and CSS. But things still move slower than they need to,

Many people still use Windows XP even though Microsoft stopped supporting it several years ago, These same people are still using Internet Explorer 8 which is very old technology and will increasingly see problems when they view websites that use the latest technology available to them.

But thankfully, as most people are using modern phones and tablets to view the web, almost all of the web browsers available for them use the very latest standards. This allows the most creative Web Designers to unleash the power of the very latest in HTML and CSS offering a great experience for visitors to your website.

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