The first web pages appeared in August of 1991, as a simple, text-based page with some links. It basically told what the World Wide Web was all about.
For the archeologically minded, a copy of the the website still exists online.
Early sites were entirely text-based, with minimal graphics and no “layout” to speak of, mostly just headings and paragraphs. Web sites then were entirely text-based with a single-column design and inline links. Initial versions of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and allowed only a basic content structure: headings, paragraphs, and links. Eventually, new versions of HTML allowed the addition of images and later tables were added.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established in 1994. Its purpose was to set HTML as the standard format for web pages in order to prevent individual companies from building proprietary browsers and programming languages that would minimize the overall purpose and effect of the web as a whole.
“Table-based” layouts came next, giving more options to designers of websites. Designers discovered that it could also add structure to their designs, creating more multi-column layouts.
These table-based designs grew in complexity, with background images that often gave the illusion of a simpler structure to the website. “Spacer” GIFs were used to control whitespace.
Where is web design headed? We’ll know when it gets here. Enjoy.