I first delved into the world of web design when I was around 20. I downloaded and printed the entire HTML 4 specs which was the equivalent of both printing and reading the bible! The printer never worked the same again after that! Fast forward a few years with the addition of children I decided to give it another bash. At first I designed static websites locally on my computer ranging from a comedy store, as I like a laugh, to a designer sunglasses website, which was heavily influenced by selling cheap sunglasses on Ebay. I designed these websites with a demo version of Dreamweaver as I quite liked the idea of WYSIWYG. These ideas were never completed nor made public thankfully although thanks to Microsoft my dreamweaver demo never expired as I was forever restoring XP with the common Blue Screen Of Death error.

The Big Switch

In 2007 I switched to Linux Mint as I was fed up restoring XP and Windows Vista on my 9 month old laptop was, to put it in a nicer term, a little sluggish. As dreamweaver wasn’t supported on Linux I used it as a precursor to learn and code websites, using Netbeans or Aptana, the latter I still use to this day. Shortly after this switch my friend, Louise, who runs a small business designing and making jewellery mentioned that her website was performing poorly and she wasn’t getting any orders. I had a peep at it and it was designed with HTML frames and boasted a flash navigation, enough said!

My First Website – Process & Planning

Louise asked me if I could build something better for her so we got together, had a look at some inspiration on the web and managed to come up with a black design centered in the web page. I designed her a concept and she wanted to change it for a light design.

nu-gems black
Nu-gems original concept black design.

With the design picked out I got to work on building the skeleton waiting very patiently for her to produce some pictures and descriptions of her designs for me to work with. I decided from early on that I would use custom PHP templates and CSS to make it easier for updating in the future.

I wasn’t that familiar with PHP before so this was also a learning curve. I heavily relied on keeping to a tight budget so I resourced scripts that were free for commercial use and used my persuasive charms on the stuff that wasn’t. The previous web designer had also incorporated Mal’s E-Commerce into the web site so I had to work around this to keep the budget to a minimum.

Nu-gems Launch

Nu-gems was rolled out eventually after 3 years from the original conversation. In that time I had to get all the information from the previous web designer, setup new web hosting and gather all the bits and pieces required for the site itself which took the majority of time as Louise was doing shows and events throughout Scotland. After receiving all the info it took me around 4 weeks to complete and the site went live.

nu-gems original
nu-gems original live design

The Ever Changing Web

Nu-gems hasn’t changes much since it’s early days. I have since integrated Google Fonts and played with the colours a little. Although I am not displeased with the design as it stands today knowing what I have learned since I would use HTML5, make it responsive and adapt it to fit mobile screens or maybe even use WordPress.

nu-gems
nu-gems as it stands today

Conclusion

Louise likes her website and it has made more money than the previous one so I guess I have accomplished a goal and yes we are still very good friends! I learned a lot from building my first web site including SEO, XHTML, PHP & MySQL, CSS, Graphic Design and a little Javascript and more importantly not to give up. I have used these vital skills to tweak and build other websites including this blog. There was one more invaluable lesson I did learn however, and it is not to print the HTML specifications!