In which I launch a badly built website

Confession: I am/was a pretty shite web developer. While I could construct a website that more or less worked, my code was riddled with errors and prone to all manner of unexpected quirks. I doubt it’s got any better since.

I once received a call from a (thankfully friendly) customer asking me why his website had the words “piss sticks” in the corner. My sphincter popped in and out with fear. I knew instantly what it was – one of the ‘amusing’ error messages I created to make my stumbling progress easier and more fun and that had somehow made it onto the live site. Rather than spool out a MySQL error, I couldn’t resist making sites swear at me.

Given the state of my code, there was a lot of swearing.

Even though I haven’t developed a website in something like 5 years, I sometimes wake up screaming in the night in the cold realisation that there are still entire businesses wobbling around on the rickety codebases in which I specialised.

I labour this point, because on and off over the last year or two I have been slowly building a website. Purely for personal fun, and no business or individual relies on it working, thank God.

It’s been a salutary reminder of the complexities involved in building a website. I still silently berate our previous SEO company for the gimcrack structure and legacy of bizarre pages they left behind, but even building a simple website with limited functionality constantly throws up little hurdles to overcome – often with unexpected side effects on an unrelated part of the site. As our (as in the business’ site) is built on a platform that has evolved over several years, and been subject to messing around from a dozen different directions (SEO, design, business requirements, customer feedback, personal prejudices, testing) it’s no wonder that turning it around is like¬†manoeuvring¬†an oil tanker.

It’s been useful to see how far and fast things have changed. Back in the day, all we had was PHP and MySQL queries – Javascript was a troublesome thing that tended to be avoided. I’d dabbled with AJAX very early on (I remember the original concepts coming out) but now everything is JS libraries and API calls through this and that. On the one hand it’s very speedy, but on the other it adds an abstraction layer because you don’t have to understand the code – just call it at need.

I don’t know why I say that, because I never really understood it in the first place, but still I like An Old Man rant from time to time.

All this I mention because when you’re a pureplay marketeer or a non-technical SEO (they do exist) all of this stuff must just be meaningless mumbo jumbo. I’ve said in the past that web developers can and do get away with murder because they are often managed by non-technical people or under the thumb of a know-nothing marketer who just wants the Prettiness. However, it is also the case that a surprising number of people in a field such as SEO can’t program a single thing of their own and don’t understand what’s going on under the hood.

If that’s you, I suggest digging out some tutorials and building something – even if it’s simple and a bit crap. Your developers will thank you if you can speak their language even a little bit. The same is true for design/CSS/whatever. Learn something of those skills as the jobs market is going to get a lot tougher when the Euro finally goes tits up and plunges us into a recession again.

Anyway, my site needs a link so Google can start poking around it properly – so here it is in all its glory*

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* may be less glorious than advertised.