As a kid growing up in the 90s and being addicted to the Internet, it’s safe to say that I’ve been able to follow the trends of website design over the last 20 years. In fact, I’d even dabbled in designing websites myself and I found it very interesting to watch the trends evolve over time. With that said, I think that this next decade is going to be the most revolutionary decade for website design that we’ve ever seen, and AJAX is the technology that will lead the charge.
The HTML Blues
In the past, when you hired a web design firm, you typically got a page that was coded in static HTML. This is all is available at the time, so the most advanced websites were simply HTML pages all linked together. It was not uncommon to pay thousands of dollars for one of these websites – a website that today would cost less than $100 and could even be done automatically.
As the years ground on, CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, made its way to the main stage. Now we had a way to style HTML to make it more visually appealing. In the past, we had to sort of “hack” into the HTML to make it look the way we wanted, but CSS opened the floodgates. Now we could take text and change it into any color, font, or style we wanted. We could create sections, containers, and other unique visual elements that added a lot of color and spice to the page. Websites started to look like magazine pages, which was the predominant media form before websites existed, and as such was the best comparison we could use to judge our progress.
After CSS, Flash and other technologies started to put a little bit more motion on the web. Now we could have visual intros and animations play on our website, allowing us to convey more complex messages to our users. However, something was still missing. We could display information, or we could display animation, but for some reason we still could not combine the two.
AJAX: The Natural Evolution
It was time for new technology to be developed. AJAX was that technology, and it is still being developed this very day. The beauty of AJAX is its ability to both be animated and interactive at the same time. For instance, let’s say you want to leave a comment on a blog article you found particularly interesting. In the past, you might have to make your comment, hit the submit button, and then let the page refresh. Only then would you be able to see your comments. This is a little bit redundant, because you’re already on the page that the comment should be posted on – so why should the page refresh? That was the only way we could do it for quite some time. With AJAX, website designers have been given the ability to load that comment immediately and visually right on the page. As soon as you hit the submit button, you see your comment appear right below the other comments. This type of functionality results in a much smoother experience for every single person who uses websites.
This is not the only area of a website that AJAX can have an effect on. Right now, we are seeing a revolution in web startups that are using AJAX as the primary technology behind their software. Some of the most innovative and exciting web applications have functionality that allows them to load everything within one page, meaning that you do not have to hit the back or forward button ever. Additionally, you never have to refresh the page – everything refreshes automatically on the main page. This type of shift is going to set the standard for most websites in the future, and it is all built up the back of the innovations that we have had in web over the past 20 years, as well as the latest explosion of interest in AJAX. Only time will tell where we will go in the future, but as of right now things are looking pretty good for the world of web design.