is dead long live

This site has been running since 2004 💪 primarily as a blog. The origins of the url are that it was a nickname I received early on in my career. I carried it through to internet usernames and then the title of my blog. And in 2012 the name of my Ltd company. Dogwonder Ltd. As such it made sense to have this site as a sort of blog / company site. I had a few different layouts, but it never quite worked out, what was the purpose?

Anyway after some recent discussions, it was pointed out to me I am mostly known professionally by my name not my brand so it made sense to leverage that for my professional work (whilst still trading as Dogwonder Ltd) and retain this site purely for blogging once or twice a decade 😜. is now a thing. Focused purely on my professional side. is just for shits and giggles now (and some code probably).

The many many other urls I have registered over the years, who knows.

Hackercise bike

During lockdown I was fortunate enough to have continued work building websites, in-fact due to Covid-19 various organisations needed to pivot focus I was busier than usual. So although I didn’t suddenly find myself with loads of time on my hands there was still plenty as I wasn’t going out or travelling to an office.

And on that part of not travelling, I really missed my daily cycle into my office space. It was only 2 miles each way but with lockdown I really started to feel the lack of that daily exercise.

So I emergency purchased an exercise bike – a ‘Roger Black Gold Folding Magnetic Exercise Bike’ for £109 from Argos a week before lockdown (we all knew it was coming right).

During the early stages of lockdown it was a real boon. But I still missed the feel of my bile as well as the ability to track my ride. The Argos one very much didn’t have these capabilities. As such the Hackercise bike was born. I bought or repurposed the the following.

  • Bike tape
  • Garmin Speed Sensor 2 (key to tracking distance)
  • Garmin Cadence Sensor (optional)
  • Garmin out front mount
  • Garmin 520+ Edge bike computer

Now the Speed sensor is meant to go on a proper bike, and the one I bought had a flywheel, I tried to see if I could attach the sensor to it in some way, but there was no good place to do so. So I attached it to the pedal crank. I read somewhere that if you then give the Garmin Edge a fake wheel circumference that you could trick it into thinking it’s a real bike. Anyway, I did so and using the existing speed sensor that came with the bike I was able to calibrate the sensor with the wheel circumference at a massive 4.85 meters. But what the hell, I had an accurate(ish) reading.

It was on.

That sorted I removed the foam padding from the bars, removed the existing computer (basic LCD) – tapped up the bars, and added the mount. It actually felt like a real bike! And I was able to record my rides!

The project had two purposes, firstly a little focus during some pretty dark times, and secondly it also allowed me to exercise more which then helped with purpose one.

And it worked! Here’s a Strava activity from the Hackercise bike.

And some photos, the first one is the original setup.

Nunjucks and rediscovering web development

So I am still very much love WordPress, I even had a cold embrace with Gutenberg (no React for me though, I strictly follow the three important rules that must never be broken: do not expose the mogwai to light, especially sunlight, which will kill it, do not let it come in contact with water, and above all, never feed it after midnight, ACF all the way for me💪) but the entire WordPress 5 tug of war did get me thinking, I really don’t need to be so wedded to one CMS or even a set method of building sites.

For some time I had considered static site builders (*again*, I used to build sites in Movable Type). And given I didn’t have to learn React I could learn something else I actually wanted to do and not pipe 400kb down the pipe before rendering 1 line of HTML (and lets face it WordPress is not ideal here in the first place). Obviously the CMS part was the reason I build so many websites in WordPress in the first place, but not all websites need a CMS. I’ve build many CMS’ for people that thought they needed the ability to edit their site, and probably never logged in to it (and sometimes just ask me to update stuff, because they don’t know what to do or the interface has changed way too much 😜). So I figured why not static, more secure, faster, and I get to get back to what I really love crafting websites mostly in HTML/CSS and a sprinkle, Salt BAE style, of Javascript.

I’ve been playing around with Handlebars, Jekyll for a bit and liked them, and then found out about Nunjucks (can’t remember where, but I knew used it for their site). Really liked it a lot, I’ve been using npm/Gulp for a number of years, and many different template engines/systems, so felt comfortable using it, hell WordPress is one of the best right, but also used liquid, django and probably others that are gathering dust in a SVN repo somewhere.

I liked the fact it was like hand coding a site, but on steroids, I could hook it up to a JSON file like a lightweight CMS and generate all the pages I needed, I could use even markdown files as content as well (with the addition of a package). Set off a gulp task and HTML pages came out the other side of the npm machine, like a website factory with lots of little AI helper bots, with myself in an upstairs office looking on.

It also allowed me to concentrate more on accessibility and performance, something I really care about, often with WordPress sites, there were a ton of external dependancies and code that I just can’t control. It also allowed me to create something open source, which I don’t do enough.

So the end point of all this chatter was a little static starter kit called juckWonder (geddit?) that I will use as a starting point for small static sites I need to build. The code is available here on GitHub. I intend to keep on developing and improving it, but pretty happy to where I’ve got with it, I even managed at one point to achieve the holy grail, 💯 across the board on a lighthouse test. Oh yes. Performance doesn’t always return 100 but it’s on a Github pages instance so I wouldn’t expect it to.

So in a roundabout way I am pretty happy WordPress development moved away from me, I got to embrace other parts of development I missed.


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. 


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.

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.

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