Nowadays, the UI are becoming more stylized, just like art has been since time immemorial. Is there a classification of art movements that serve specifically to group UI designs? For example, I can clearly see a difference between a 90's web page, a 2000's, and a 2010's one. Something like Impressionism, Realism, Art Deco,...
There is a broad classification system for web functionality that can also be used to define different "artistic movements"- Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and theoretically in future, Web 3.0
It's reasonable to use this classification system for style, because, in so far as we have experienced to this point, there has always been at least some connection between available technologies and the style of the time.
(Inception of web to approx. turn of the century)
This has been described as the "read-only" era of the web [1,2]. Static pages, low levels of interaction. The aesthetics of this early phase were likely initially influenced by:
- Self-publishing by home enthusiasts 2 more adept at learning web markup languages than designing clean layouts resulted in busy, often garish pages.
- Pre-CSS sites were usually built in tables, which in the hands of the uninspired designer resulted in simple broad single column layouts.
- Pre-broadband internet speeds excluded the use of high quality images in websites, which resulted in text-heavy sites, and drove designers to make use of animated GIFs and pixel art for visual interest.
- Being in new territory as they were, designers chose the perhaps more intuitive and safe option of skeuomorphic design when creating elements, such as rounded or beveled buttons and decorative border frames
(Turn of the century to present day)
(Sample sites are the sites you use every day. Facebook, Youtube, Google Maps, etc.)
This is where we are now. Described by some as the "interactive web". Available technology has had much more of an influence on function (services) of the web but the style has also been affected.
"Web design" became a legitimate field of interest and study. Established design theory (e.g Gestalt Principles) began to be applied and lead to an increase in quality.
Increased computing power and bandwidth enabled the use of high quality photography and custom typography
Evolving tastes lead to cleaner, spacious layouts, less skeuomorphic, flatter designs
Recently the rise of mobile computing and browsing has lead to the proliferation of responsive design and dominance of grid-based layouts.
Web 3.0 is often held to be synonomous with the Semantic Web. When the web becomes smart and starts to understand the meaning of pieces of content and the relationships between them. What our interfaces will look like then, and how they will have been influenced by the available technologies remains to be seen. Perhaps the rise of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will take us to a post-screen era of interface design, and the concept webpage design becomes obsolete?
There are other angles from which to view the history of web/UI/interaction design, like this much simpler and technology-focused approach, but I think that in the long term, when we're looking back in 20 or 30 years, it is the broad categories I have proposed here that we'll use to describe the age (era) and style of a piece of web design.