20 YEARS!

It’s 20 years to the day since I started my web career (and indeed my first full-time job). 16th November 1999. 

Last millennia. 

Woh. 

I started as a ‘Web Development Assistant’ (and something about Sales) at Macmillan Publishers in London. 

Here’s the first website I’ve worked on.

I had no idea what I was doing, but rather fortunately it was still relatively early days for the web, so easier to get a job in it through enthusiasm and willingness to learn. 

We had Internet Explorer 4. Netscape Navigator 4.7. No mobile. Google wasn’t something people had really heard of yet. Wayyy pre-social networks. Many people still thought it (the web) was a fad. 

See what it was like, it was wild. http://oldweb.today/

This was a typical day for me back in 1999 (on a giant beige Dell desktop with CRT monitor)

  • Processing online orders  – our e-commerce platform went like this – a form sent an email to me, I would phone the person up, take the credit card number enter the details into a Word form, print it out then through internal post send it to Basingstoke to be processed by another person using a system built in the 1970s.
  • Tech support for some of our online products (online encyclopaedias, lol). Including a memorable time when I spent the best part of an hour a day training an 80 year old on the fundamentals of computing and the internet (he expected the online encyclopaedia to appear when he turned on the computer)
  • Updating the website, via FrontPage 98. Editing files LIVE on the server. 
  • Creating GIFs for new products / menu items in full 216 dithered GIF Technicolor. And 640 pixel wide monitors
  • Learning HTML/CSS from my boss, who was awesome and very patient. 
  • The day I started work as a Web Development Assistant is also the day I sent my first ever email.

Things have changed somewhat, although some of it hasn’t, I still try and keep learning, I still update the live server 😉

I didn’t even know what my profession really was until I started looking for a new job after 8.5 years in Publishing. Turned out front-end developer was closest to what I enjoyed.

Since then I’ve worked on many many many websites, I left publishing and worked in an exciting and forward thinking agency for 4.5 years, with some of the smartest, most creative people in the industry, and learned a ton. 

I’ve travelled round the world helping people understand their needs and translating them into working sites. 

I then created my own company, Dogwonder Ltd. in 2012 and have spent the time since then working directly with awesome companies, people and collaborators. 

I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with people though building websites. Clients big and small, colleagues of all kinds, family, friends, communities and my wife. The internet connects us all. 

I am still building websites. I really didn’t think from that point 20 years ago that I would or even could still be building websites. And I still love it. It’s a constant journey of learning and understanding and  I feel very privileged to be able to be able to do it. 

Job title now – no idea. I build websites. 

We went from static websites (remember Movable Type) to database driven (WordPress) / restful API (Ruby on Rails) back through to static sites again. We went from static designs to responsive websites, with the advent of mobile. 

Lots has changed but also lots hasn’t. Building websites that work for the user, allowing them to get done what they need to get done, whilst making sure that the widest number of people, devices and browsers can access them have been core all the way through 20 years. As I was starting web standards was becoming a thing, it still seems very very relevant today, sure things can be improved, but we should never forget the fundamentals, build good stuff that works well for as many people as possible.

I think now one of my biggest concerns is someone starting their journey today. I see an industry where some of the players have put up barriers, making the learning curve and steps massive before you can even render ‘hello world’ in a browser. It isn’t as accessible as it should be and that makes me sad. It’s an amazing job, and we shouldn’t be making it harder to start.

But I digress. It’s been a great 20 years, and feel very privileged to have been able to work in this industry.

Leave a Reply