A Web Developer Story

A Web Developer Story

Note: The websites listed and linked to within this document are by no means complete. They are intended to give you an idea of what my past works looked like.

If you know me, you also know that I spend a lot of time with computers. I work all day doing website design/development for a local business, and I spend a lot of my free time working on personal projects which involve the computer. Most people would probably never guess that I had never even touched a computer until half way through high school, at least not in any involved way. That changed when my family got our first computer and internet subscription.

In the summer of 1997 I had just finished my Sophomore year of high school. The majority of my time was spent with my high school band and the many practices and performances that went along with being in summer band. My passion had always been music and I was certain that i was going to go to college and major in music education or performance. There was simply nothing else in the world that I was as interested in or devoted to as I was to music. I had gone to several state solo competitions and won first ratings for two years in percussion and I was practicing for my third year. That is when everything changed for me and the direction of my life would be altered forever.

Going Digital

My dad was interested in purchasing a computer and I, being the only person in the house that had actually used one at school, offered to help him find one that would work well for us. We took a trip to the local office supply store and started browsing around. this store carried almost exclusively Compaq computers and at the time they seemed like they were pretty nice, or at least they looked cool. We picked one out and I think it cost around $1400. It had a DVD-ROM drive, which was a big deal then. CD burners weren’t quite popular yet and they were very expensive so we rejected that option. The specs at that time were top of the line; it had a 17″ monitor, JBL speakers and a decent amount of memory for that day.
Once we got it home and set it up I was instantly obsessed. I would spend almost all evening messing around with the computer figuring out how things work. The computer came with a restore disk which said that it would restore the computer back to its original settings in case of a problem. Using that disk as a safety net I began to poke around the entire system and learn how it worked. Most of my time on the computer at first consisted of Microsoft Chat sessions and Yahoo! chess. I was amazed and intrigued by the ability to communicate with people from around the world and even play games with them from our living room. That’s what got me interested in learning how to make web pages.

I had noticed several times on our computer a program called Front Page Express. I new from the help files that it was used for creating web pages, but I had no idea where to begin. In my previous browsing experience I had noticed a “View Source” option in one of the menus of Internet Explorer, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I opened the browser, pulled up a page and then clicked the view source button. What I saw was a mess of text that I couldn’t understand mixed in with some of the contents of the page. It was obvious that all of that code was somehow used to tell the browser what the page looked like, but how? Back in Front Page Express I looked at the source of a blank page and noticed tha there were a standard set of “tags” that were on every page despite what content was on the page. I now how the building blocks and a basic understanding of what a web page IS versus what is looks like in the browser. As my understanding of HTML grew I was more and more interested in making a web page.

The Early Days

A played around for a long time with Front Page Express trying to figure out how to achieve certain effects, usually large text and pictures. The problem I kept running into was an area that I hadn’t even touched yet, what is web hosting? I talked to a lot of people that designed web pages and they kept saying things about needing to have a host for your website so that others could view it. I did enough research to find out that hosting wasn’t free and I was poor, so that was out. I started looking for free hosts and that’s when I found Geocities. Geocities was a place that offered free hosting and a domain, and though the domain wasn’t evanagee.com, it was a way for me to show others my website. I was instantly amazed at the idea of being able to post pictures and other information and then show it to others at school and my friends. I spent many late nights trying to learn how to use Geocities and how to get the pages I had created in Front Page Express onto Geocities so others could see them.

There are so many small rules of website development that I had to learn then that I take for granted now. What do you have to do to make your home page or index page show up when someone visits your long, but appreciated domain name? You title it index.html. How do I link from one page to another? You use hyperlinks. How do I have images on my pages? I have <IMG> tags. I was learning something new all of the time. Eventually, after I had spent many, many late nights figuring out how to tweak my pages I was finished with my first web page. If you’re brave, check this out. I was so proud of this web page. I love the fact that I thought I was good enough, because I had produced one web page, to build a website for anyone. Great stuff.

From there things exploded. My dad, who played in a band that was pretty popular locally, “wanted” me to create a website for his band that would tell when and where they were playing. I can’t find a copy of that website anywhere, and Geocities has long since removed the files from their server. Over time I got a little better at achieving my design intent through my limited knowledge of HTML. I developed websites for a couple of school organizations at my high school, including the Centerville Winter Guard and the band as well. I was offering my services (for free) to any one that would allow me to make a web page for them. I didn’t know much, but man was I determined.
By the end of high school I was at least aware of the skills that I didn’t yet have mastered that were holding me back. I had no sense of design or how to layout out a page so that the information flows well, and I had no idea what made a design “good”.

The Switch

Front Page Express had been serving me very well, but I was getting to the point where I wanted something a little more feature-rich and professional. After talking to some people online I found out that Dreamweaver was the tool to use. At that time Dreamweaver was at version 2.0 and very much in its infancy. I could tell that it was a great program, but it took me forever to learn how to use it. At first I misused it quite a bit, basically treating it like an expensive version of Front Page. I built some of my first large web projects using Dreamweaver, including the K and E Horror Page.

The K and E Horror Page

Combining my love of web page design with my love for horror movies my then girlfriend and I decided to start a web page about horror movies, the result was the K and E Horror Page. I haven’t been able to find a good copy of it yet, but if I do I’ll post it here for you to see. What I did find was another website from that time period. It was K and E Horror Waves and it was started as a way to offer sound clips from horror movies. We spent many hours on the K and E Horror Page (later the K and E Horror Domain).
We spent a great deal of time harvesting information about all of the horror movies and creating pages for every one by hand. It was through that hard work and having many pages that were basically the same but with no easy way to update all of them at once that I discovered the wonder of Dreamweaver Templates. I learned many other things through that project, but templates were by far the largest advancement that I made.
After a year or so of running the site and not getting many visitors we decided it was time for something new. We needed to get serious. That is when Living-Dead.com came along.

Living-Dead.com

My most successful web project to date by far has been Living-Dead.com. It started off very similar to the K and E Horror Page, but soon became known as the best horror movie website on the planet by the Horror 100, a website that tracks the popularity of many horror websites.
Kristen and I started where we left off with K and E Horror Page and built it up to a much larger and more comprehensive site that offered reviews, interviews and news related to horror movies. In its glory days, around 2002 the site received thousands of visitors per month and actually had a staff of around 6 people.
In 2003 I gave up the project and gave it to my co-owners Jim and Ryan and they carried the site for another year or so before shutting it down. The domain, Living-Dead.com now belongs to another horror movie database.
Here are various versions of the Living-Dead.com website:

Adams & Agee

Throughout most of high school I played with a friend in a two-person group known as Adams & Agee. We recorded an album together and though we didn’t get many chances to play out together we shared a great deal of time together writing music.
As excited as I was about websites, I knew I had to build a website for us. There were only a couple of different versions, most of which I still have, but there are two primary designs that I actually remember having throughout the life of the site.
Here are the designs:

Meanwhile…

Shortly before I started Living-Dead.com was when I got my current job as a website developer. I didn’t have greatly developed skills when I first started development as a career, but I was getting there.
My time at my current job has tought me more about website development and its many facets than I ever could have learned on my own. I’ve been put into scenarios and had to solve problems that just wouldn’t have existed when I was working on my own. I’m in an environment where learning is almost constant. There’s always a new problem to solve and I’m getting comfortable with the many areas related to web development.
I still take on personal projects from time to time, and this website is one of them. I put quite a bit of time into evanagee.com and it continues to be a testing ground for ideas.

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Some imagery provided by Unsplash.
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