Twenty years of web design
Monday 28th August 2017
Hi, Mat here. Today I'm celebrating a truly awesome event, it's twenty years since my first website went live!
In between my second and third years at university, I had a summer job working for Henley Management College, the usual office typing and filing. I was hoping to earn enough money to buy my first PC, a Windows 95 machine with a lightning-fast 166MHz processor.
Henley Management College were high-tech for 1997, they even had their own website - a single page of black text on a white background with no pictures.
My boss called me into his office for a conversation in early July 1997:
Boss: Mat, you're a computer expert, right?
Mat: Compared to you, my cat is a computer expert.
Boss: Instead of deliberately putting spelling mistakes in my letters to see if I spot them, how do you fancy building us a new website?
Mat: Hell yeah, woohoo!
Okay, maybe that's not verbatim. Either way, I was taken off typing duty and started my new project.
I had no idea what I was doing, Stack Overflow wasn't going to exist for another eleven years, and so I got an actual textbook. I taught myself HTML 3.2, building pages using the brand new Netscape 4 which had a code editor called Composer. I spent days trying to understand why pages looked totally different in Netscape and Internet Explorer 3, and decided I much preferred Netscape. I tried out the new Cascading Style Sheets and found that neither browser really supported them yet.
The college bought me a copy of PaintShop Pro to make graphics and buttons, and over the course of six weeks I assembled my very first website.
It had five pages, two fonts, a garish colour scheme, and I was incredibly proud when it went live on August 27th 1997:
I expanded it over the next year during the holidays, and then I got my first graduate job working for a pharmaceutical company doing a mixture of IT and medical information work. I built their website too, and it shows just how fast the web developed between 1997 and 2000.
Since then I think I've worked on over 500 websites, from tiny single-pagers for fledgling companies to massive million-pound government projects. I couldn't even begin to guess how many lines of code I've written in that time. I've seen the web grow from a million sites to well over a billion, going from a dial-up 56Kbps modem to the 300Mbps fibre connection I'm writing this on now.
And I'm really excited to see what happens to the web in the next twenty years!