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The Story of YAWT

This site you are reading now has had a long evolution. In it’s first incarnation back in early 1995, it was called “Mark’s Place on the Net” (MPotN) and featured stuff like my hobbies and not much else. Well, there was one thing: it also featured a section called ID Sucks, which referred to the now defunct company that basically brought the Internet mainstream to Vancouver, BC: Internet Direct.It was a place where ID subscribers could bitch about some rather poor service from the company. It was slightly popular, drawing in about 25 to 50 visitors a week, mainly other ID subscribers wo wanted to kvetch.

At the time, I was still making my living from print graphic design and desktop publishing, and the web was purely a fringe hobby for me.

By the fall of 1995, I started to learn more about HTML and bitmapped image processing (before that, I was the VectorKing when it came to computer graphics), and the second version of MPotN came out. It was actually worse than my first try, and I used (ugh) frames galore. But I learned and learned. In the spring of 1996, the first version of Yet Another Web Thing hit the web, and within weeks of it coming online, I had my first web design job. I haven’t looked back since.

Following is a short synopsis of what’s gone one around this site, and the steps and processes I took to figure out this black magic called the Web.

How I Learned

In the Beginning

I bought a book. Not just any book, but HTML for Dummies. This book gave me a solid foundation in what HTML was all about. But I should back step a bit more first.

Back in the late 80s, when I first learned how to use computers, the program I used most often was WordPerfect. Remember WordPerfect, when it was still owned by a company called WordPerfect and was king of DOS? Well, WP had the ability when you were typing of displaying it’s hidden codes in a window on the bottom of the monitor.

Those codes, which I used for intensive visual editing of the page layout, are very similar to the code structure used in HTML today. And I guess you could say that provided me with my real foundation in HTML, and gave me a 4 year head start over most coders (or at least those who didn’t use WP).

In the Middle

During my formulative years in designing web pages, about 5 years ago, I used the very thing I was designing for – the web – to help me learn. I viewed the source of many a page (you can view the source of this page right now, just click on the menu item VIEW, and look for Page or Frame Source), and I used a lot of online resources. Because I preferred using certain isms over strict HTML 2.0 standard code, my main source of information early one was Netscape’s own site.

I should pause here for a second and explain what an ism is, at least in the web world. Today, with Internet Exploder being the browser of choice isms aren’t as important as they used to be, but for historical purposes, I’ll explain.

An ism is any tag you use that is not part of the last officially approved and recommended specification for HTML. Every new version of Netscape Navigator (NN) or Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) introduces new, non-standard tags. Some of them work only in one browser, some of them work in both. For instance, The <FONT FACE> tag was never part of the official HTML specifications, but I used it extensively, because it is supported reliably by both NN 3.xx and later, and MSIE 2.xx and later versions. And using cross platform isms, like the <FONT FACE> and <TABLE> tags is perfectly fine for most web pages in order to get the kind of look you want.

These days, I only use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to code up the look and feel of fonts on a website, but back in the day, the FONT FACE tag was very valuable.

Another little history lesson for you:  It used to be that there were hardcore HTML 2.0 and 3.2 freaks out there, especially in the alt.html and comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html newsgroups. They would tell you you’re an idiot if you use any non standard tags. To them, the web was supposed to be gray with just plain text using all the HEADER tags (H1, H2), paragraph marks, and not much else. Images were almost verbotten. But their time came and went.

Okay, the rant mode is off. Getting back to the resources I’ve used, well, unfortunately I can’t remember many of them any more, but if you visit Google!HotBot or any other search engine, you can type in the keywords HTML, author, design, and you’ll come back with thousands of links. There’s a lot on the web these days to help out aspiring html coders.

Back in 1999, I started to really seriously look into programming on the web. I was hopeless at it. So I hired someone to do it for me. Then another person. Then another person. Bottom line for me is I cannot program worth a squat.

Still, programming technologies are extremely important today. On top of normal HTML, graphics, and site planning and management, a good working knowledge in ASP (active server pages, microsoft technology), PHP (open source scripting language, used to run this site), javascript and other programming technologies is almost a must for anyone wanting to make more than a FrontPage inspired website. And Flash knowledge is quickly becoming a prerequisite in site design.

What about Today?

Today, like any good designer, I am still learning. I subscribe to what is probably the coolest and most intense web designer magazine on the planet, Create Online which gives me a fresh perspective every month on where the web is going. I subscribe to Adobe’s “Hey Geek” newsletter which comes out every few weeks. and I tune in regularly to sites like linkdupCool Home Pages and of course, Kaliber 10000.

You have to stay on top of current trends and technologies if you want to “make it” in the web design business, or have a one kick ass home page. You never really stop learning, because if you do, you get left behind

And the Future?

When I first wrote this page, I talked a bit about the future of the net. I made my wish that everyone surfing would have their monitors set up for at least 800×600 resolution, full colour. That is sort of happening now. 1998 was the first year I actually made a semi living from this Web thing, and 1999 was the first year I made a real living from it, and 2000 was the first year that my company broke 50,000 in income. Three years I said that DHTML and CSS were the wave of the future, and two years ago I predicted Flash is the wave.

Today, the predictions I make are that Flash will continue to be the forefront of cutting edge, “cool” design, but stand by for the new Mobile Internet. 3G technology (video, real time streaming, to your cell phone in color) will be the breakout technology of the new Internet, and within 5 to 10 years, I think the computer as we know it today will go the way of the Dodo bird, replaced by PDAs and cell phones that have super high resolution screens, intuitive real handwriting or voice input, and “Internet Appliances” (no, not fridges, think 3Com Audry) that will be the communication tools for the future. Learn to program for WAP and xml, that’s all I can say 🙂



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