Green Comma has a brand new website. I’m feeling good about this newest iteration: beautiful full-width galleries, a giant full-width image on the homepage, a fun quote from Albert Einstein, nice smooth animation that happens when you click on a menu or scroll down a page, new links from sidebars and footers that make it easy to find content, easy links to social media, new text that makes it more explicit what services I provide, a testimonial slider, etc. Having yet another new website, though, has me looking backward at how far the site has come.
Five Years Ago I Realized I Needed a Website
I only vaguely remember my first website. Looking at WordPress, it looks like it was some point in 2011 that I decided I should set one up. I’d been hearing about friends buying personal domains for years (even domains for their babies); personal websites were proliferating.
In 2011 I had a full-time job working at the New York Public Library, but I was beginning to pick up some freelance work as a writer and illustrator. I needed a portfolio to show to potential employers, and an online portfolio was the obvious choice.
Hilary Schenker is an unusual enough name that when you google it, whatever random mentions of me are floating around the Interweb will pop up–random reviews I wrote in my college newspaper, my father mentioning his daughters somewhere, at one point my actual salary as a public employee (ugh), old relics of Friendster and MySpace profiles. I realized I needed to take control of my own presence on the Internet. I needed to create a public landing page which would come up first on google and direct people to relevant information.
I bought the domain hilaryschenker.com and a hosting plan and set up a free site at WordPress.com. I put some basic biographical information and a portfolio, and that was the beginning of the journey.
Then I Decided to Re-Invent the Wheel and Build My Own Website
Two years ago when I launched Green Comma Media, I knew I’d need a website for the business. Being a designer, I like to have control. Just get a site up on Squarespace, my husband suggested. But I decided I wanted to learn some html and css and Dreamweaver and build the thing myself. It took me lots of Time, and what I ended up with was a site that looked just okay and was so extremely rudimentary that it wasn’t really functional. There was information on it, but it was an island in the Internet connected to nothing (say nothing of SEO). And the kicker, it looked horrible on an iPhone. I quickly realized it wouldn’t cut it.
The immediate lesson I took was this: I knew I didn’t want to be a developer (on a later web design project, I teamed up with a developer so that I could focus on what I love, design, and this worked much better all around). The other thing I took immediately from the experience was the amazing, revelatory feeling of having my eyes opened to a new world. Now that I had a basic understanding of code, I had a whole new appreciation for the Internet. I understood on a new level the stories about hackers and coding competitions. I had a new appreciation for websites and why they looked the way they did.
Very soon, my basic html skills came in handy for the next iteration of greencomma.com, when I decided I would adapt a free WordPress theme by creating a child theme. This required minimal coding, was free, and would leave me with a much more user-friendly website. I found a portfolio theme that was clear and attractive, responsive (so it looked fine on a phone), and of course already set up as a blogging platform, which made sharing on social media easy. With just some very basic coding skills I was able to adapt the site to my liking. But alas websites age quickly, and that one soon started to show cracks.
Which Brings Me To…Genesis
Thus was born this newest website iteration. For this one I put some money down and purchased the Genesis Framework for WordPress along with a StudioPress theme. It looks more modern and does everything I need it to do. It’s open source, which means as a designer I have more control. If I decide to change my logo to a new color scheme I can update the site as needed, or I can play with the positioning of elements, add a new portfolio, features, etc. If later I decide I need WooCommerce to sell prints from the site, I can do that. And I like that it’s a one-time payment to buy the theme, instead of paying monthly for something like Squarespace.
Thank you for following me on this trip down website memory lane. Let me know your own thoughts or experiences with web design–what was your first website? What do you use now? What has your journey been? Thank you for joining me in this conversation.