My journey into web development

I’m a big fan of an origin story. Reading about how a person started their career or how a product went from idea to reality is really inspiring to me, so I thought I should make my first post on this blog about my origin story and how I ended up here.

When I was younger I would always be changing my mind on what I wanted to be when I grew up, as I think most kids do. The one thing I knew for sure if that I wanted to be very successful and I wanted to do something important. Then in my early teens, I settled on being a lawyer and decided that is the career path I would pursue through college and university. At around the same time I discovered graphic design, I didn’t know it yet, but that discovery changed my life!

It all started with a little site called MySpace

For those who don’t remember it, Myspace was a very popular online social networking site between 2005 - 2008. I was never very active at social networking online as I don’t consider myself to be very good at it, but the thing that caught my eye was the customisations people were creating for myspace profiles. Myspace allowed CSS & JavaScript injections, and while that’s probably not very secure, it did mean that with a few lines of code you could customise your profile and make it really unique. There were hundreds of websites that offered custom layouts as well as glitter graphics, banners, album covers, music player skins, etc. and I was determined to learn and become one of those websites.

I started to learn photoshop and graphic design, I joined a few forums where other graphic creators shared their designs and website links. I felt like I found a whole new world and reason to be online. I was still only about 13 years old, and like many people at the time, we had a family computer that was for everyone. This meant I only got a few hours a day to be online and practice my new hobby. I did all the photoshop tutorials I could find (which wasn’t that many at the time) and downloaded thousands of custom fonts and brushes. After a while, I got quite good and decided I was good enough to share my creations with the world. I started sharing on the forums but quickly decided I needed my own website so I went in search of how to do that.

Some of you will remember a website called Piczo, where a lot of people started on their web developer journey, and I was no exception. I had one of those websites with the glittery welcome sign, an about me section, hit counter and guest book. It was terrible. But I still think of it fondly. I did outgrow Piczo relatively quickly and instead found a site builder to use. I don’t quite remember the name of it anymore but it was a very early version of a site builder where you can choose a template and colours and create pages. It was still pretty terrible but looked a bit more like a “real” website over the Piczo ones, so I happily uploaded all my graphics and sent the URL out on the forums.

That just wasn’t enough for me though. The other websites looked much better than mine, they were making custom layouts for their websites and they had domains that matched the name of their sites. So I started to explore and learn. I must mention that a lot of resources we have now weren’t around then and while Youtube was a thing, it was mostly used for funny videos rather than useful tutorials, so getting started was a challenge. Luckily, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Dreamweaver (back when it was still Macromedia Dreamweaver before adobe bought them) and the familiar interface allowed me to create some very basic web pages. Through using Dreamweaver’s visual interface, talking to people on the forum and inspecting the source of the websites I liked, I managed to learn HTML and CSS. It took some time and my websites still weren’t amazing but they started to look a little more like the ones I aspired to so I was very happy.

Eventually, I managed to get myself a domain (by signing up to a survey website and earning enough points to get a .info domain for free) and even convinced my mum to buy me some cheap hosting for $12 per year. One summer I even participated in a forum sale and made a pretty penny selling some of my graphics. Even though I had fallen in love with graphic and web design, I never thought of it as anything more than a hobby and still intended to become a lawyer. It wasn’t until it was time to look for work experience in the last year of high school, and I couldn’t find a law firm to work at, that my mum suggested I look at web design agencies. I didn’t end up finding any offering work experience but it did get me thinking about making my hobby a career.

When the pieces fell into place

I decided to go to college to study Interactive Media and then on to university to get a BSc in Web & Multimedia. I often wonder what my life would be like if I never discovered those MySpace websites, but in the end, I’m always glad that I did. Although I’m sure I would have made a fine lawyer, I don’t think I would have loved it as much as I love being a web developer. Besides, I think I still achieved my childhood dream. I consider myself successful in my field and the websites I help build can impact people’s lives, which can definitely be classed as important.

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