Thursday, 9 February 2006

Left To My Own Devices

The following chronicles my web exploration and site building exploits. The original article appears here.

Before Google
For anyone who maybe remotely interested. My online adventures began in the summer of 1995. A friend and I spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon in Bournemouth University's main library surfing the net using Netscape 3 Gold (back in the days before the advent of 'free' browsers and IE domination).

The first site I ever visited was Sony USA. And the first search (using Yahoo!) was for actress Winona Ryder. Does anyone remember this site from Eric Harshbarger?

http://www.auburn.edu/~harshec/WWW/Winona.html/

After graduation, and now in gainful employment at Reuters Business Information (RBI), I signed-up with AOL UK (1997).

Google Earth
In the spring of 1998 Macworld UK magazine carried a free copy of Claris Homepage on a cover CD.

Claris Homepage may have lacked the 'killer' features of GoLive and sexier Dreamweaver (the de facto WYSIWYG), but it was simplicity itself, and, above all, no hefty price tag if the medium left me cold. So, whilst off work and suffering from flu, I started to put together an inaugural web site: an eclectic mix of original work and pop culture commentary (Buffy, Party of Five and Dawson's Creek had captured the zeitgeist of the day). This went live on AOL within a week. The first 50 hits came soon after!

By 1999 AOL UK had all but alienated its Mac customers due to tardy application updates and lacklustre support, and I searched for an alternative ISP and web host.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm
Regrettably this was a time prior to the wonder known as the SuperDrive (CD/DVD burner). Despite owning an Iomega Zip 100 Drive the notion of regularly backing up critical data (on my trusty Performa 5200) had yet to enter my design DNA. In a move that would cost me two-years of web development (including graphics, text et al), I accidentally deleted my offline site. For the record let it be noted that Microsoft's Outlook Express 4.x (for Classic OS) should take some of the responsibility too!

The next two years went by and I couldn't muster any enthusiasm to rebuild the site from scratch - work and the transition from Classic OS to OS X took their toll. Then a friend asked me why I hadn't setup a new site? The honest answer was creative apathy. Apologetically I loaded Adobe PageMill 3 (included with my iMac DV SE) and...

Step By Step
Adobe offered registered PageMill 3 users a free upgrade to GoLive 5! In the space of a weekend (burning the midnight oil as-it-were) I'd assembled a basic site and uploaded this to my iTools (.mac) iDisk after some trial and error (mostly the latter) - there were no tutorials explaining how to use original templates and requests (to other iTools webmasters) for help went unanswered. Where had the sense of community gone?

Once I rolled out the site (2.x) the next phase was to promote reciprocal links, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and consider affiliate marketing (pays the hosting bills and adds a high degree of editorial responsibility on my part).

American Idol
A cute recollection. I'd applied to join The Iconfactory's deskbase in 2003. That same afternoon I received a confirmation, from Mindy Weaver, warmly welcoming me to their extended family. At the time Kelly Clarkson's 'Moment Like This' was playing on the radio.

Express Yourself
By 2004 this site had come of age and I could no longer ignore the allure of the brave new frontier: blogging + RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

Although blog templates are often criticised for their homogeneity, ease of use and extendibility far out way any negatives. Critical code updates can be applied to an entire site sans the time-consuming tedium of modifying each page individually. This leaves authors to focus on 'content'.

Think About The Future
2006 and, now that the blog is well established (Buffy and Dawson have graduated out of our lives), it's time to revisit this site again replete with a new 'bag of tricks'! The incumbent GoLive has made way for the sassy Macromedia Studio 8 triple threat (Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash).

What "dreams" may come?