I started designing websites back in the mid 1990’s. HTML was probably one of the first things I learnt once online. Though, its safe to say my coding skills don’t reflect the number of years I’ve been designing websites. It took me a while to evolve into PHP and HTML5. Plus, I often modify open source code instead of building a website from scratch.
Back in the day, America Online offered free web hosting to all subscribed members. The first website I created was with the free AOL hosting. If I remember correctly users would get 5mb of web space and the ever so – Kewl – members.aol.com/YourUserName domain name. All kidding aside AOL actually had quite a nice little community of websites.
At that time the internet was still very new to me. I would spend hours upon hours searching Altavista for anything and everything that came to mind. During my searches I started coming across different AOL member sites. It was one big community. The uniqueness, creativity and the effort people put into their personal home pages was awesome. Everyone was signing everyone’s guestbook and helping each other. It really was cool and I wanted to be a part of it.
The problem was I didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. And had a ton of questions. Back then, whenever I had a question, I went straight to the chat-rooms. I know some of you generation Y-ers might have a hard time believing there was an internet without Google. There was, and at that time, chat-rooms were my Google. AOL had a chat-room for just about every subject. So say I had a question on cars, I would go into one of the automotive chat-rooms and just ask. Almost always there was someone there willing to help. That’s part of what made AOL so awesome.
Shortly thereafter the free hosting era kind of came to an end. AOL was already sharply in decline. Fortune City closed down. Yahoo ended up buying Geocities. At one time there were so many GeoCities websites in that community it was unbelievable. After the decline Yahoo kept them on life support for sometime, but eventually closed the doors.
As the free hosting hubs became less popular I was becoming more interested in starting and growing my own business. I wanted something more professional and decided to purchase hosting and a domain. The first hosting company I used was Dreamhost. That’s where I started learning about FTP, Cpanel, ect. I stopped developing personal websites for a while and only focused on working online. For those of you that know me – know that’s always been a dream of mine. The website developed through Dreamhost was basically used in conjunction with eBay and it wasn’t anything special.
Business was up and down and I was always working some kind of side job. It had to be around the years 1999/2000. I was still pretty young and everything I was learning was by trial and era. Plus, I wasn’t exactly the maturest person on the planet. During that time I also started getting into writing. And boy was I a terrible at it. At least grammatically speaking. I just didn’t know it at the time. On the days when I had some spare time I would jot thoughts down on a notepad and then enter them into Live Journal. I don’t consider Live Journal web development by any means, but my writing did lead me to Blogger and then WordPress. And with WordPress code being highly modifiable, I do consider that web designing. Somewhere in-between I designed a number of sites based on open source including message boards, galleries, blogs and e-commerce sites along with a few sites I probably don’t even remember. Which brings me to where I am today. I still love web designing and often think about the newness of it all when I first started, the experiences encountered and people I met along the way. I also think about how much the early days of website creation had helped mold me into who I am today.