There were few websites around in the late 1990s, including this one, that didn’t feature a hit counter. They may not have been the most elegant of elements sitting upon a webpage, but in the days before the analytics tools that we take for granted today came along, they were one of the few ways that website owners could gauge visitor numbers.
But how cool might an actual hit counter, rather than something virtual, that would emit an audible click, each time someone looked up your website, have been? Using a mechanical impulse counter, Dutch software engineer Jeroen Domburg, aka Sprite, recently created such a device, and by following his instructions, you could as well.
This counter would have an additional advantage, though: every time a person requests a page from my site, the counter would give a satisfying ‘Click!’. The more clicks you hear, the more people reading your pages.
I wanted to launch a redesign on this 20th anniversary – in the old days I redesigned this site four or five times a year, whenever I had a new idea or learned a new skill – but with a ten year old daughter and four businesses to at least pretend to run (businesses that only exist because I started this website 20 years ago today and because my partners started theirs), a redesign by 31 May 2015 wasn’t possible.
I may not be anywhere near as busy as Zeldman, but so far it hasn’t been possible to update the design here, that has been in place eighteen months now. Those days of five redesigns a year are truly a distant memory.
I think everyone should have a website, but then again I’m a tad biased in that regard. If you are however thinking of taking the plunge, and establishing your own online presence, How to make a personal website, in 9001 easy steps by Thomas Levine, is what you need to read.
Nobody other than you is going to read your website once you have it, at least at first, so don’t worry about designing it for other people. In fact, you don’t even need a website; just come up with some system that makes it easy for you to find the things you’ve recorded.
Oh yes, there’s not quite nine thousand and one steps listed here…
disassociated.com takes its origins in what now seems a primordial desire of mine to be a web designer. That I had no knowledge, or for that matter, experience, in the field was irrelevant, a mere detail. I made it, for a time, but soon realised I was really looking for a way to publish online, rather than build online.
Still, it all remains a reminder to me that anything is possible, should you set your mind to it.
I’ve been reading the articles of New York City based web designer Jeffrey Zeldman for near on seventeen years. Zeldman, also known as the godfather of the web, has been designing the web, and writing about it, for twenty years now. Time is passing.
Maybe Gates said he didn’t believe in easy on the eye web design instead, if the inaugural front page of the Microsoft site, above, is anything to go by. Mind you, he wasn’t alone in that regard, that’s what much of the web at the time looked like.
It was the date of this article, or the year it was published, 1999, that caught my eye. To my mind 1999 is possibly a point in time that inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance, almost as if it were the temporal junction point of the entire space-time continuum. Whatever. I thought I’d link to it anyway.
A list of the top ten web design mistakes of 1999, compiled by the much reviled, at the time at least, web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen, who, way back in 1999, was concerned that web designers weren’t giving much thought to the way information was archived on a website:
Old information is often good information and can be useful to readers. Even when new information is more valuable than old information, there is almost always some value to the old stuff, and it is very cheap to keep it online. I estimate that having archives may add about 10% to the cost of running a site but increase its usefulness by about 50%. Archives are also necessary as the only way to eliminate linkrot and thus encourage other sites to link to you.
I like the sound of this idea, a museum of sorts, for web design artifacts, which possibly includes disassociated. I now regret not better archiving some of my earlier designs, if only for personal reference purposes, but it unfortunate that the interfaces of many websites dating from the 1990s are irretrievably lost.
For too long we have relied upon a service that “archives” other websites but it’s not enough. The archives are tragically incomplete and lack the means to provide the full experience of what used to be. Archive.org does not adequately preserve enough information to serve as a lasting account of the web. We can not rely on large, multi-billion dollar companies to do this for us. Nor can we depend upon individuals to properly archive their PSDs, HTML, their work, which helped to change the world.
Blink tags, spacer GIFs, and DHTML… if those terms make sense then chances are you were web designing in the 1990s, and possibly, therefore, deserved the rock-star status the job title way of life conferred upon you.
You were a web developer in the 1990s. With that status, you knew you were hot shit. And you brought with you a score of the most fearsome technological innovations, the likes of which we haven’t come close to replicating ever since.
The reason the Web Standards Movement mattered was that the browsers sucked. The stated goal of the Movement was to get browser makers on board with web standards such that all of our jobs as developers would be easier. What we may not have realized is that once the browsers don’t suck, being an HTML and CSS “guru” isn’t really a very marketable skillset. 80% of what made us useful was the way we knew all the quirks and intracries of the browsers. Guess what? Those are all gone. And if they’re not, they will be in the very near future. Then what?