When I started designing websites in the early 2000’s, simplicity was required. You just could not pack a web page with images, textures or anything unnecessary as the audience would be using dial-up and it would take forever to load a page.
Skip forward a few years and universal broadband brought a bloat in website bandwidth. Some clients demanded that every inch of screen was used to maximum effect, and to support the effects and slideshows there was a massive library of script libraries and stylesheets behind the scenes. Because of broadband, pages still loaded in reasonable time, but the core purpose of the website was sometimes lost with all the bling.
Mobile browsing on phones and tablets has added another dimension, forcing designers like me to reconsider every design decision, making websites responsive, mobile first, and touchscreen friendly. Simple icons work better than big images on a phone, and convey the message better. Flat design was born, the minimalist “Ikea” style which disposed of anything superfluous and kept the design clean and simple, unadorned.
Skip forward to the present and the web is full of all sorts of website designs, and it is interesting to see how some designs now look really dated, some attract more than others and some look soulless. To me, pure flat design is a step too far. I like the unbloated simple feel but yearn for something a bit more characterful, in your face. I never want the design of the website to detract from the purpose of the website. Function over form every time.
Web design is very young and it will be interesting to see where the evolution of design and technology will lead.