I have been in Internet development since late 1996. I kind of fell into it, a friend invited me to the grand opening of his new bar, I went along and met these two guys who had just set up an Internet business. I knew pretty much nothing about the Internet and we chatted about what they did. My background up until then had been in sales, I was looking for a change, they needed someone to do sales. So they invited me to come along and take a look. I was more or less hooked from the start by the web, up until then, if you wanted to know something, you went to your local library and hoped you could find a book with the answer in it and I just loved having all that access to information.
Search Engine Optimisation
I had got into search though, I could see that search optimisation was going to be important for businesses and so far as I know I was the first person in the UK to run a dedicated SEO agency, I ran that business for about a year and then I got involved in a mobile phones e-commerce project. The programmer who had been hired to code the back end dropped the ball basically, he kept promising delivery and nothing arrived. In the end I got impatient and decided to do it myself.
I became an early adopter of the new big thing of the time, Microsoft’s ASP which had just been released. I found I preferred coding to SEO work. Over the next decade, I became a Microsoft Certified Professional in 1999 and worked in a variety of contract roles, among which: I managed the public website for the biggest online learning organisation in Europe; was web lead on a small team that put together from scratch a custom built CMS for a leading commercial property agents; I built an online fund price application for an insurance company Engage Mutual (now called One Family), this went live in 2006 and, I am pleased to say, proved good enough to serve the company for 12 years with only the most minor changes.
Then came the financial crisis. While the 2000 dotcom bubble had not had much effect on me either way, in 2008/9 I found that my contract work had pretty much dried up. In addition I had always found the travelling entailed in contracting tough to deal with and by that point I had two young children who I felt I would like to see a bit more of. So I took stock and looked for other ways to make a living.
Thankfully, these days, we no longer have to code HTML by hand, there are a wide range of powerful Content Management Systems available. I have tried Drupal and Joomla and I like the simplicity of TextPattern, however, the thing which made WordPress stand out for me was that it makes users happy. The dashboard is easy for newcomers to get to grips with and the content creation tools are great. It is also easy to customise and extend.
I had got to know WordPress very early on. My partner had a blog and hated Blogger, so I think I probably explored the original 0.7 release in 2003 and moved her to WordPress 1.0 in early 2004. As a sideline I had built a small number of sites for clients over the years, helped out with, fixed, rescued and hosted a lot more. I had used a variety of themes, one of my favourites, still, is the Twenty Twelve theme but if I was going to be a WordPress specialist, I wanted to work with the best tools so I researched what was available and settled on the Genesis Framework from Studiopress. It is well coded, fast, secure, well supported both by Studiopress and an active and enthusiastic community of developers and highly customisable. Using it saves my clients money as it is helps me to produce results faster – in fact I would say, if it can be done with WordPress, I can do it quicker and better with Genesis.