We all remember our first time. We were young and learning as we went along. Awkward, frustrated, and a little embarrassed, we were just glad when it was over.
Our first time building a website, I mean. Come on – what were you thinking? Seriously.
My first website was built around ‘94 or ‘95; and apparently, the last update was on 6/20/97. It was hosted on one of Arizona State University’s servers at www.public.asu.edu/~rtarr. Sadly, this account is no longer active. I wrote all of the code in vi on the server (insert snarky comment here about people currently moving back to vi).
The year was 1995. I had picked up a book titled Teach Yourself HTML in 10 Minutes a few weeks earlier. If you wanted internet access at home, you used AOL.
Since there was a young lady that I wanted to impress with my awesome skills, I built her a website. It was only one page built using whatever text editor was available on Windows at the time. It took me forever to build, but I eventually delivered her a new page that proudly said “Built by Rob” in the footer. I figured out how to put her site up via AOL.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What sort of dork tries to impress a girl with a website?” Well, this dork was sure that it would win her heart. To make a long story short, I ended up building pages for a few of her friends, but she never did fall for me.
This is kind of boring. The first site I built was for my mom and dad’s podiatry office in Beavercreek, Ohio. You can check it out for yourself in the Wayback Machine here. It’s from 2001, and I remember being very proud of it. As I pulled out my modern front-end dev tools to inspect my handiwork, I noticed that I did have my styles defined outside of the HTML. I guess that’s a good start, even if the layout was done with tables.
I stumbled through my first site in late ‘99. My cousin had an I.T. company in Champaign, IL that needed a website. I was a college freshman design student on winter break, so he invited me to stay with him for the week and build his business a website. In return, he said he would buy me a Mac G3, a copy of Photoshop, and teach me some basic HTML. I had no idea what I was doing, but I couldn’t refuse a new Mac.
I designed and built the thing entirely in Photoshop. I must have discovered “bevel and emboss” at this time as well, because the entire site looks like it’s cast in plastic. I used Photoshop slices and the “export HTML” feature, then cleaned up the HTML by hand. It’s not pretty, but I got through it. And I rode that basic web knowledge (as well as that G3) for as long as I could afterward.
To be honest, I had a hard time remembering my first actual website. When I was in high school, I experimented with HTML and CSS, and I also helped work on the school website. However, I didn’t really create a useful website until college.
While attending college, each student had 10MB (!!!!) of webspace available to them. I decided to use mine as space for a basic blog. It wasn’t database driven; it was static HTML. The design was pretty basic (dark gray with light gray sans-serif type), but it was clean.
It was also a comedy site. My roommates and I would contribute to it on a weekly basis, discussing everything from cafeteria food to music and movie reviews. I might have been trying to mimic the Something Awful comedy site model at the time, but my site existed as an exercise and side-project for a small circle of friends.
My first site was for a local church, and I built it in Dreamweaver. It even had some (highly unnecessary) Flash navigation. I think I did it in ‘07. Check it out here in the Wayback Machine.
The first website I designed and managed the creative direction for was Five Rivers MetroParks in the late nineties. It was a site that needed to present all 26 park locations on their own site as well as the main corporate Five Rivers site. I proposed one database-driven site that would allow visitors to filter or search the entire park system by activity and/or location as well as propagating individual park pages, such as “Germantown MetroPark.” It also had a custom CMS that allowed them, for the first time, to manage content, event info, and scheduling of all 26 park facility events.
Needless to say, this was a huge undertaking, was way before its time, ran way over budget, and was finally implemented a year late. It was later scrapped because the outside development company oversold, under delivered, and never got all the bugs worked out.