As you may know I was chosen to be a judge in 123-reg.co.uk’s competition with a topic: “My First Web Site”.

Here are 8 real stories of people who are sharing their web site building experience. The posts are really interesting because everybody went through a lot of different and breath taking situations to be visible online for the first time!

The requirement for the competition:

  • What was the first site that you created (or first site you can remember creating) about?
  • How old were you when you designed it?
  • Are you still using it?
  • What technology did you use?
  • Did you create it for yourself, a friend, or a client?
  • Are you still proud of your first website design or do you cringe when you think back on it?
  • What would you do differently if you were to design it today?

And the prizes:

  1. First Prize: a 13″ MacBook Pro
  2. Second Prize: an Amazon voucher worth £100
  3. Third Prize: 123-reg credit worth £75
my first web site competition

My First Web Site – 123-reg.co.uk’s Competition

I will present the stories from the least impressive to the most interesting one – which will be the last one! I will also comment each story and will share my own opinion. I will evaluate each article based on these simple questions:

  1. Why did you build your web site?
  2. Did you build it for you or for a client?
  3. What was the purpose of the site? Did you accomplish it?
  4. How many visitors did you have?
  5. When did you build it? How old were you?
  6. How did you build it? What CMS, tools did you use?
  7. What were the feelings you encountered when you post it online?

Of course there are 27 more competitors evaluated by the other judges – so it will be very interesting who will end up with the MacBook Pro! After winner announcement – I will post his/her story here as well! Enjoy!

8th Place – maddymonster

Source | Author
tardis
Asking someone to think back to the first web site they built, is a bit like making us remember back to days of shoulder pads and flares, dodgy haircuts and summer holidays spent camping in Bognor Regis… painful.

Frontpage, that scourge of many a would be website designer was my weapon of choice. (It was that or Hot Metal, which had come free with a copy of PC Pro or some such monthly magazine). Easy to use and manipulate if you were savvy with the office suite, but not so user friendly if you were viewing the pages online. Windows 95 had just arrived and amazed by how evolved it was on my little pentium with a whole 16gb of ram and connected to the world wide web by my 56k modem, I set about building my homage to Buffy and Angel and all things sci-fi.

At the time it seemed so clever, full of every free line of code to do something that I could find, but when I think about it now, quite painfully sad and one dimensional.

I had a free hosting account on a server which was a bit dodgy, but it allowed me to host animated gif’s. They were really clever and they didn’t take any programming expertise as I could just upload them like a picture. In those days, I was all for free code, free ideas and flying by the seat of my pants. The page was not professional in any way shape or form, but I loved it, it was my baby and I spent many hours looking at ways to improve on it, until it was a mismash of different styles all clustered around a black background. I don’t have many of the gifs saved on this pc anymore….

There were words flying in from all angles as the pages loaded, fonts of every shape and style clustered together like an advert for “how not to write a web page” and links that glowed and spun when you clicked on them. I showed absolutely no respect for anyone waiting for the page to load as for me less is more was not a concept that I understood.

The website evolved over time to become far more polished and user friendly. I learnt to make sure that it was compatible with all browsers, discovered Macromedia Dreamweaver and Invision power boards and ran a successful forum from it for years. I laid it to rest about four years ago, destined to live on only in my memory and now just build and look after the website for work, which is hosted on 123.reg. It is because of them that I am writing this trip down memory lane as part of a competition they are running, the details of which you can find here: http://www.123-reg.co.uk/first-website-competition.shtml , although I suspect that I may soon find myself one bored and lonely evening building another just for fun as thinking back has made me yearn for something more than just my little blog… now I wonder what freebies do they have??

Verdict:

We all like GIFs… Thanks… NEXT!

7th Place – Rachel Brown

Source | Author

Rachel Brown

Discovering the web

I remember the first time I went online. My dad was a teacher and had brought a pc home from school. My brother and I humped it into the hallway and plugged it into the phone-line. Those were the days of dial up and teenage years spent hogging the phoneline due to the allure of msn messenger.

But I was a user, never did I imagine I would become someone who put content up there – where would I start?

Humble beginnings

Ok, so I’m a late developer (!) but when I set up my first website in 2010, it was only possible because the blog software did it all for me. So ‘built it’ might be a slight exaggeration. I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know what html was, how you even got a webaddress, or what SEO stood for.

But I wanted to write – and I wanted people to read. And so it was I would set up a BLOG.

Now, I’m still an absolute beginner, with lots to learn, but I’ve come a long way since setting that up at the end of 2010.

So here it is my first website – my blogger blog – Rachel About Town, which is still going strong 3 years on.

Blogging Path

From writing on my blog, one thing became clear – I loved writing, and you know what, I wasn’t too bad at it. So I started dabbling with writing, and decided I’d set up a site to promote my freelance services. I did a bit of research on the web, and it seemed that wordpress offered good functionality, so I had a go at building my own website on a wordpress site.

Naturally I bought the web-address from 123-reg. So this was my first venture into cnames and hosting and all that jazz. It’s amazing what you can learn from you-tube videos.

An Unlikely web-designer

And then a friend, who ran a baking business, wanted an online presence. “I’ll do it for you,” I ventured. (Perhaps I should point out that I made this offer after a couple of beers..!)

And so it was that I found myself doing web design. Just months earlier I was a total website newbie. Again, youtube videos and google were my go-to resource. I had to learn what a theme was, how to imbed anything, how to build a blog into the site – really I had no idea. But a lesson in plug-ins later, and Goodness Cake had their site.

And yes – you’ll notice me doing logo design too now..

Skills

I built a shop on Big-cartel for a friend, set up a group blog, learnt all about SEO, am trying to learn how to code(feeling like am back in maths classes), love wordpress and get the occasional web-designer joke. Boom.

Competition

So, this blog post is my entry to a super competition run by 123-reg to win a Macbook, *swoons* by talking about your very first website. Now I know I’m no fancy web designer, but I’m learning more every day, and considering in October 2010 the only uploading I’d ever done was to facebook, I don’t think It’s half bad.

This Arts grad is living proof that anyone can build a website.

A macbook would be such a super tool for my writing and sites, and whilst you can build a pretty good logo using a combination of powerpoint and paint (yes this is really how I’ve made them all to date) it would be super amazing to have some swizzy apple software to help me out. Whacha think?

Verdict:

I have the strong feeling that the article was written in 10-15 minutes… Not enough information is shared and the ending is missing… The thing I couldn’t agree more is the macbook part (the last one) – nice software, indeed. Whacha think?

6th Place – James Greig

Source | Author

greig
I can’t think of a more evocative sound from my early online adventures.

Apart from an angry parent shouting “JAMESSSSSS! I NEED TO USE THE PHONEEEEEEE” from downstairs.

It was 1999. The internet and I were fresh-faced. (9 and 18 years old respectively).

I’d graduated from Microsoft Frontpage. Macromedia Fireworks and Dreamweaver were my new toys, but I needed a reason to use them.

So I dreamt up a concept for my first website:

“Ever wondered what someone on the other side of the world looks like when they squash their face onto a scanner? Now’s your chance to find out – Headscan brings hilarious images from across the globe direct to your desktop. Send us your picture and we will add it to the Scan Gallery, along with a dot marking you out on the map, and a link to your website”.

By August 2000, Headscan had clocked up 14,000 hits and was receiving around 15 submissions a month.

My Hotmail inbox filled up with the names of exotic places.

Sheffield. Frankfurt. Manila. Rido de Janeiro. Alabama. Warsaw.

It felt like the future had arrived.

I made a prophetic declaration on my fledgling web-design portfolio:

“Thousands and thousands of new sites are launched every day. In ten years time nearly every business in Britain will be using the world wide web.”

Hot damn, I was right!

But updating Headscan’s static HTML was increasingly time-consuming. It would be another 4 years before I learnt PHP and mySQL, thanks to WordPress.

I looked up the location of each submission in a printed atlas, then placed it by hand as a dot on the appropriate map. You’ll need to trust me on this, as the Wayback Machine is the only record of Headscan I have — an imageless ghost of what was my digital pride and joy.

I distinctly remember the mixed emotions the first New Zealand Headscan heralded.

Wow! Someone on the other side of the world has heard about me!

(No MySpace, Facebook or Twitter remember. I guess people just emailed links to each other. Or went on forums. I even read the newspaper to find new sites).

D’oh! The marker dot is obliterating New Zealand on my map.

So I made a new map to house Majik in Lower Hutt and laboriously linked up the other locations.

This was starting to feel like hard work.

I was now studying graphics in Glasgow and had more pressing needs. Like earning extra cash to fund my social life and get drunk enough to think I could dance.

But I didn’t own a computer. So I borrowed my flatmate’s beige PC and once a week stayed up until dawn, cajoling pixels into place. I was hooked.

I stopped updating Headscan, and began cold-emailing businesses in the phone book that didn’t have a website, offering to build one for £100. A car-hire company was the first to take up my offer. But that’s a story for another day.

What did I learn from building my first website?

  1. Experiment. Have fun. Put new skills into practice.
  2. Don’t worry about technology or writing beautiful code. 99.99999% of people don’t care. The other 0.00001% will be arguing about what the actual percentage of people who do care is.
  3. Build your site around people. Make it human.
  4. Make a backup, dummy, or take screenshots. In a few hundred years someone might take the same pleasure from looking at your website as they do now looking at old black and white photos, marvelling at smudges of horse-drawn carts and petticoats.

Verdict:

I really like the fact that James Greig’s site gain big popularity in 1999. The screenshot + the sound of the loading modem bring us the nostalgia of the 90’s. The best part, however, is the last one – good to know these 4 tips you are sharing with us, James!

5th Place – Shea Wong

Source | Author

Miami grade

It started with a boy. (But don’t all good stories?) He was a crush of mine, we had the same performing arts major. I was taking SAN 151 at Miami University, otherwise known as “Computers, Computer Science, and Society” – basically, it was Geology 101 (Rocks for Jocks), but for computers. But I loved it. See, I started college in 1994 (four years after the “Big Bang 2? – when the Internet went public), and I immediately got hooked on Usenet and IRC. I really loved the sense of connectivity to other worlds, other ideas, other concepts. But this class was an eye opener – it was like the difference between appreciating a pretty house, and understanding how that house was built. Going in and behind the scenes empowered me – I felt like I knew the ‘secret’ language of the brave new world of technology.

But back to the boy. He was a HUGE Chicago Cubs fan, and as part of my final, I thought I’d create a web page based on the Bleacher Creatures. For those of you not in the know, the hardcore fans of the Cubs get seats in the stadium’s bleacher section, where they drink copiously under the sun until either the Cubs win, or they pass out from dehydration/sun stroke/alcohol poisoning. Good times. So using my very basic HTML skills, I decided to create what could safely be considered the worst website. Ever. Anywhere. Ever.

A moment before I continue: I would like to apologize to my professor, wherever he is in this world, for what I put him through. I imagine when he was forced to grade my abomination, he must have gone home, drank heavily, and cursed Sir Tim Berners-Lee for ever creating the World Wide Web. This monster was a fail of epic proportions. It was so juvenile looking, evening news programs could have used it to entrap child predators. We are talking #01DF3A COMIC SANS (of course) on a one page, forever-scrolling #F2F5A9 background with every picture, no matter how large or small, oriented left, like some crazed lineup of mugshots…it actually makes me wince in pain to think about it.

But, I did well on the class, as you can see from my transcript below. A solid B. Not too shabby. Beyond helping to cancel out that D+ (for real, who asks a senior to make an 8 am class?), it spurred on what would become a lifelong affair with computers, and the Internet itself.

While I’d never make programming or designing my career, within three years I taught myself Perl to help put together my first blog, on nimh.net, found the man who’d become my husband via our blogs, and eventually became a consultant not only for app design, but helping people become better Netizens. And yes, my husband loves to make fun of my lack of MaD sKilLz (as he does this sort of thing for a living), but I like that I can tinker about with this page, and all the others I’ve created over the years, and appreciate not only what’s on it, but what’s in it.

Sure, my first website didn’t win any awards, but it didn’t have to. It lit the spark, and that spark changed the course of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Verdict:

I can REALLY feel your love towards your husband! A solid B.

4th Place – Tracey Rickard

Source | Author

Turkey site
I wonder how many people have entered this competition and not actually entered the very first website they did because they are not too proud of it. When I look back at my first ever website I cannot say 100% that I do it with pride!

This website was created in 2003 and was my first ever toe dipping experience in terms of web design/development. It was created in Microsoft Front Page – I know don’t say it, I moved onto the dizzy heights of Microsoft Expression Web after that! After working with the Microsoft melange Adobe didn’t need to do much at all to sell itself to me and I took up with Creative Suite pretty soon.

The site was created to market a holiday rental property in Turkey. In terms of SEO this was a pretty good site, it got lots of visitors and enquiries and was fully booked every year after the second year. Also my first ever logo design, enough said there I think.

Building this site did make me realise how much I enjoyed the whole experience and it was from there I decided get some training in so that I could turn my hand to it professionally. It was a big learning curve and I continue learn something new every day, which is not difficult in this industry. I now design and develop fully responsive websites on the WordPress platform and I absolutely love it! Whilst in hindsight this website is very amateurish I will always be grateful to it for helping me to move onto a career that is hugely satisfying and makes me smile, often :-)

Verdict:

I really DO like people who are digging into web design and SEO! From this article I can see that the author is not only sharing his first site experience, but is also evolving through the years! The projects presented can only be admired! True web art! Photoshop + Illustrator + SEO + CMS = I am impressed! If only the article was longer… Maybe too many clients in Cornwell? Maybe…

3rd Place – Pete Clark

Source | Author

Pete Clark
When people ask how long I’ve been making websites my instinct is to answer “Forever”. In reality I hand coded my first site on an Amiga 1200 back in 1997. I was 16 and the website (which I called .greentea) was a masterpiece. It took pride of place on the young web until around 1999. Thankfully I am pretty hot on archiving so I’ve been able to put this beauty back online for you to endure. Sorry, enjoy.
Look at it and you’ll see that I was clearly well on my way to becoming a professional web designer. You’ll notice a visitor counter on the homepage. This is a static image which I used to make it look like I got slightly more traffic than I actually did. What number of visitors do you think I claimed to have? Five hundred? A thousand? Not even close! I professed to have received well over 38 million visitors to my little home on the web.

The site was a portfolio of my creative endeavours and featured news on my imaginary music career along with some MP3s which, to my knowledge, no-one ever downloaded. There was also a ‘visuals’ section which included cartoon drawings of myself and a photo of me holding a beer bottle in which I had greyed out everyone apart from myself. I look like a fool. To say that I was somewhat self-obsessed is clearly an understatement. The confirmation of this, if any was needed, is apparent as soon as you read ‘A Toast To Villainy’ — a story I was writing about myself. In this tale I refer to myself as The Great GreenTea which I can only assume made sense to my adolescent brain. The disjointed story includes bread theft, world domination and me falling down a well. I never finished it.

Other highlights included a ‘Site Of The Month’ page which linked to the website of ‘fun’ Irish popstars B-Witched. That site has been offline for sometime now. The link now points to a website which claims to supply ‘the latest news and reviews on your favorite bands’. But doesn’t.

The final page is my personal profile. Here I make exaggerated claims (‘I’m setting up a T-Shirt design business’ — Don’t remember doing that!) and make up slightly for my endorsement of B-Witched by pointing out that I also listen to The Prodigy and Squarepusher. I end on a description of my ideal woman which includes the gut-wrenchingly awful phrase ‘she would have an unquenchable enthusiasm for life’. Oh dear.

Verdict:

Honest, creative and original web designer! Keep walking, Pete! …16 years old? WoW!

2nd Place – Tracy Ridge

Source | Author

nu gems
I first delved into the world of web design when I was around 20. I downloaded and printed the entire HTML 4 specs which was the equivalent of both printing and reading the bible! The printer never worked the same again after that! Fast forward a few years with the addition of children I decided to give it another bash. At first I designed static websites locally on my computer ranging from a comedy store, as I like a laugh, to a designer sunglasses website, which was heavily influenced by selling cheap sunglasses on Ebay. I designed these websites with a demo version of Dreamweaver as I quite liked the idea of WYSIWYG. These ideas were never completed nor made public thankfully although thanks to Microsoft my dreamweaver demo never expired as I was forever restoring XP with the common Blue Screen Of Death error.

The Big Switch

In 2007 I switched to Linux Mint as I was fed up restoring XP and Windows Vista on my 9 month old laptop was, to put it in a nicer term, a little sluggish. As dreamweaver wasn’t supported on Linux I used it as a precursor to learn and code websites, using Netbeans or Aptana, the latter I still use to this day. Shortly after this switch my friend, Louise, who runs a small business designing and making jewellery mentioned that her website was performing poorly and she wasn’t getting any orders. I had a peep at it and it was designed with HTML frames and boasted a flash navigation, enough said!

My First Website – Process and Planning

Louise asked me if I could build something better for her so we got together, had a look at some inspiration on the web and managed to come up with a black design centered in the web page. I designed her a concept and she wanted to change it for a light design.

With the design picked out I got to work on building the skeleton waiting very patiently for her to produce some pictures and descriptions of her designs for me to work with. I decided from early on that I would use custom PHP templates and CSS to make it easier for updating in the future.

I wasn’t that familiar with PHP before so this was also a learning curve. I heavily relied on keeping to a tight budget so I resourced scripts that were free for commercial use and used my persuasive charms on the stuff that wasn’t. The previous web designer had also incorporated Mal’s E-Commerce into the web site so I had to work around this to keep the budget to a minimum.

Nu-gems Launch

Nu-gems was rolled out eventually after 3 years from the original conversation. In that time I had to get all the information from the previous web designer, setup new web hosting and gather all the bits and pieces required for the site itself which took the majority of time as Louise was doing shows and events throughout Scotland. After receiving all the info it took me around 4 weeks to complete and the site went live.

The Ever Changing Web

Nu-gems hasn’t changes much since it’s early days. I have since integrated Google Fonts and played with the colours a little. Although I am not displeased with the design as it stands today knowing what I have learned since I would use HTML5, make it responsive and adapt it to fit mobile screens or maybe even use WordPress.

Conclusion

Louise likes her website and it has made more money than the previous one so I guess I have accomplished a goal and yes we are still very good friends! I learned a lot from building my first web site including SEO, XHTML, PHP & MySQL, CSS, Graphic Design and a little Javascript and more importantly not to give up. I have used these vital skills to tweak and build other websites including this blog. There was one more invaluable lesson I did learn however, and it is not to print the HTML specifications! This post, if you have reached this far is part of an entry for my first website competition by 123-reg.co.uk.

Verdict:

Nice, fresh and well written story! Good job, Tracy! Almost perfect!

And the Winner is…

prize

1st Place – Jaina!

Source | Author

Jaina - the first place
You can see how this would speak to me. I’ve previously blogged about my first website. And now I’m blogging about it again. WITH ADDED PICTURES. Shocking I know. (Though as they’re from an online archive, bits are missing from them. Wish I’d kept the site locally as an archive.)Way back in the summer of 2000, aged 15, I’d just finished my GCSE’s and had a summer of nothing to look forward to. Instead of nothing I decided to fill it with the learning of what it takes to create a website. What was my website going to be about? Why, Buffy and Angel of course. There was never a doubt in my mind.

And so Dusk ’til Dawn was created. My very first website. What with it being my very first website not only did it have about 5 frames on the homepage, there was a looping flash animation (With music, proudly created in Flash), wacky hover over effects on the navigation, black background and gold coloured text. OH YES. Hey, I was young. I didn’t know what was good. Besides, I thought I had a leg up on those GeoCities sites because I had my own domain name!

I was hoping The Way Back Machine would have an archive of this very first layout. It did not long ago. Sadly it’s no more. The earliest screenshot is from 2001. A whole year after Dusk ’til Dawn first launched. Let me tell you, I learnt a heck of a lot in that first year.

See, in that summer of 2000 I taught myself everything I needed to know. I had some guidance from my brother but then ran with it. Taught myself how to use Adobe Photoshop. Learnt HTML by using Microsoft FrontPage. (I kid you not.) Learnt Flash the hard way. But it stuck with me. How? I was too cool for books. So it was the Internet that taught me. And a whole bunch of trial and error. I had absolutely zero experience with graphics packages before this and my only option was to just get stuck in. The learning curve was steep, but fun.

Over the years I put my new knowledge to good use. Improved the graphics, expanded the site. Started understanding HTML and design and what I should be doing as well as making things pretty. Even got to understanding the basics of JavaScript. Which came in handy. And yes. The site was built using tables. Lots and lots of tables. I didn’t know better. A lot of the people creating websites back then didn’t know much better. I did however know to use external style sheets. CSS baby! I think it wasn’t until the penultimate redesign the site got that I realised the power of divs. Power and annoyances. But mostly power.

In the mean time I dabbled with using PHP embeds for the header and footer of the site. The site’s content was growing and I couldn’t recreate every single page. PHP embeds saved my life when it came to updating the navigation and the sort.

As the site grew in popularity I started using more scripts. Eventually I moved the entire site over to the CMS WordPress. So I had to learn a little bit of PHP to make the most out of WordPress. I promised myself that I would transfer all the content over to it too. Sadly by then I’d amassed so much content and had a shorter amount of free time, that all the content never really made it.
Dusk ’til Dawn shut up shop in 2010. Ten years isn’t a bad lifespan for a fansite for Buffy and Angel, and then eventually Firefly, Dollhouse, Fray and Dr. Horrible. I’m still very proud of my first website. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be working in the field I’m in right now had I not have created Dusk ’til Dawn back then.

If you’d like to check out the entire archive for how my first website looked, head over to the Way Back Machine and have a look see for yourself.

Verdict:

Vivid, fresh, unique and fun story with many pictures and shared feelings! Deserves the 1st place without any doubt! Subscribed, Jaina! Time well spent, indeed! :-)

Conclusion

Building your first web site is like the first kiss – you will never forget it! All the authors deserve admiration for sharing their unforgettable moments with us!

Thank you all and good luck! Alex