Richard MacManus teaces the history over the past decade and looks ahead:
Corporate Web sites tend to re-invent themselves every 1-2 years and one reason is because Web design is constantly changing and adapting to technology in an evolutionary manner. Web design is a product of its environment, in particular of HTML and Browsers, but also secondary influences like Content Management Systems and the speed of computer processors. Web design is always pushing the boundaries of what current technology allows.
Over the past decade Web design has gone through many iterations, driven by the ever-changing environment. Web browser vendors have contributed a lot of new features and functionality. The HTML specification has grown from a rigid structurally-based markup language, to an extensible HTML-XML hybrid. And CSS is now widely used to keep structure separate from presentation.
Plus lets not forget the business drivers for Web sites. Marketing and businesspeople have slowly gained an appreciation of the Webs unique strengthsfor example that it enables a two-way dialogue with customers.
The changing landscape has led corporate Web sites to evolve from textual to multimedia, brochureware to interactive, static to transactional, chaotic to standardized, rigid to extensible, broadcasting to read-write. Web sites are no longer virtual places, theyre more like virtual agents. Today, corporate Web sites exist to serve their users and so their design must be personalized and loosely-coupled.
Web sites will continue to evolve and be products of their environment. Browser and operating system innovation (or lack of) will affect what the Web looks like in another 10 years. XML Web technologies that so far havent impinged much on corporate Web sites, like RSS and RDF, will force new ways of designing onto us.