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Web design generations

Paul Scrivens is wondering who will be the second generation of Web innovators now that the first generation’s time has passed.

Before I can touch on his concerns, I need to reset the timeline a bit. By my count, during the past 10 years of Web design, the industry has gone through five (maybe six—the mid-nineties saw a lot of rapid developments) “generations.” And that is not including the innovators who actually invented the medium. Here’s my take, or variant, of Scrivens’ list (although people aren’t named in mine, innovative events are—and you don’t have to dig far to learn who were the key people involved):

Key Elements Time Period Notable Events
Images 1993 – 1994 Mosaic, HotWired
Extensions and tables 1995 – 1996 Web-safe palette, marquee and font face, Creating Killer Web Sites, CNET’s left navigation
Pages with movement 1997 – 1999 DHTML, Flash, simple styles
CSS layouts and valid mark-up 2000 – 2002 WaSP, A List Apart 2, three-column layouts
Beyond Web standards 2003 – present CSS Zen Garden, CSS Destroy

With that done with, I do agree with Scrivens that Web design is at the cusp of a new period, athough I may be a bit more optimistic. Earlier this year I was (like others) getting pretty frustrated by the one-note songs CSS-based designs were inspiring. Around May, with the revolution sparked by the CSS Zen Garden, this all changed.

The past six month, will, in hindsight, be seen as the start of one of the most productive times for Web design, largely because:

Innovation has a way of thriving when limited by outside circumstances. I, for one, can’t wait to see what this emerging generation will produce.