I miss designing web sites. Back in the summer of 1996, I found a book on HTML in the discount bin at my local bookstore and took it upon myself to learn the ins and outs of the art of web design. My first site, Pure Fun (can you tell I started this one at thirteen?), was a mess of everything from wallpapers to animated icons to random commentary to advice columns. Let’s face it: it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. Luckily I moved on quickly, learning some Java and CGI along the way, and came up with a prototype for what would be one of my biggest web accomplishments. HoMM3 Unleashed, dedicated to the 1999 3DO PC game Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia, was a side hobby of mine that I started at the beginning of my junior year of high school. I took it upon myself to outclass and outperform the already established web sites dedicated to the game, and found myself rapidly amassing an international fan base. Once all the kinks had been worked out, the 100+ page site received multiple awards, including one from the game company itself, and was even featured in the now-defunct PC Games magazine, which, in its heyday, rivalled ubermag PC Gamer. Ultimately, though, with over three hundred thousand visitors, and needing to update the site multiple times daily, it proved too time-consuming for a high school student to handle, and I handed it over to one of the most frequent visitors, who merged with a fellow gamer to create the Might and Magic haven known as Celestial Heavens.
My other site, developed from my love for European pop music, was a fan site dedicated to Swedish pop sensations the A*Teens, formerly Abba*Teens. In the summer of 1999, my sister and I traveled to Sweden to visit relatives, and I was introduced to the Abba tribute band, whose singles “Mamma Mia,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” and “Super Trouper” were catchy and upbeat. I figured there would be a small market for such music, as I really enjoyed it. My site, Somewhere in the Crowd, quickly grew to be one of the most popular A*Teens sites on the web, so much so that even the maintainers of the official site noticed and would periodically send me autographed CDs and pictures to use as prizes in site contests. Once again, though, updating became a nuisance, and I dropped it in senior year due to a load of AP courses and tae kwon do training. The A*Teens have since split to allow its members to pursue individual projects – both Dhani Lennevald and Marie Serneholt (who was voted the sexiest woman in Sweden a year or so ago – quite a change from when A*Teens first began in 1998!) have released albums in Sweden since then – but on occasion I do listen to their songs and remember the days when they were my main musical focus.
I never received any compensation for my sites, though in hindsight, HoMM3 Unleashed could have done well with some advertising. I was never in it for the money, however. I made sites because I enjoyed a) the product I was marketing, and b) creating the sites themselves. And I miss it! I miss the enjoyment of putting together a professional-looking site just from typing a bit of text into Notepad, I miss scouring the ‘net for means of attracting visitors, and most of all I miss creating a product that was both useful and enjoyable for people I might never meet, from all around the globe.
I’d like to get back into web design. This would entail, however, re-teaching myself the tricks of HTML as well as learning the languages and technologies that have emerged since my departure from the web scene, including DHTML, Flash, PHP, and so forth. That, and I require a good idea for a site. Obviously this is a long way off, but it’s fun to think about.