A New Year and a New Look

I started this site back in July of 2014 (the 20th if I’m not mistaken), and it was the first WordPress site I ever made. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really know much about WordPress (or any CMS) at all (that’s actually a big part of why I chose to make it with WordPress), but I heard a lot of good things about it and decided to give it a try.

Web Development Background

It may be relevant to note that at the time of this post, I’m not someone who’s been doing this for ten or twenty-odd years of my life. In terms of a “year count” or whatever you’d like to call it, I’m actually a relatively “new” web developer by some standards, I would suppose. I think my first experience with “coding” HTML was about seven or eight years ago, though, in reality, all I did was pretty much change a little bit of code on a website I managed for a group of friends—I didn’t know what HTML even was (let alone what it stood for), and I didn’t get into web development seriously until maybe three or four years ago.

Like I said, I haven’t been doing this very long in terms of a year count. Instead, I just sort of took a self-imposed highly concentrated dose of web development education. I racked up a lot of hours in a relatively short window of time, and that window of time has been the past two or three years (this last year especially). For a while, it consumed almost all of my free time and I did very little else with my time—which was okay for me personally, but if you’re going to do that, I’d say to beware of burnouts.

Redesigning from Scratch

For the first year and a half after starting this site, I pretty much just focused on my design and web development skills in general, and was still sort of getting used to the whole WordPress thing. I found a template and started editing it and editing it until it no longer looked like the original template. At the time I thought it looked alright, but looking back on it now, I think it looked pretty bad. But hey, that’s just how improvement goes I guess.

When January of 2016 rolled around, I decided, “You know what… I’m going to throw all of this out the window and make a brand new design from the ground up.” I’d never done it before, and when I started, my site just had the blank white background and some basic black text. It’s taken me a year to get the site to go from that to where it is now (as of the time of this post, of course). I know that may seem like a lot of time, but I had a lot to cover as I had to learn a lot of the stuff as I went along—there was a lot more things I didn’t already know in PHP, CSS, JavaScript, WordPress-specific stuff, etc. I wrote several thousands (8,000+) of lines of CSS and much of the JavaScript/jQuery (jQuery can be such an absolute godsend sometimes). As far as PHP goes… I have no idea how much I wrote throughout all the different files.

Almost all of the visual stuff here I did myself. The graphics, parallax scrolling effects, hover effects, animations, font icons (I made some; David Gandy made some), SVGs, etc.
I ended up making not only the theme completely from scratch, but also some custom plugins (a ton of the behind-the-scenes backend functionality of the site was also written by me) because, not only did I want to reduce the number of third-party plugins used, but I mainly just wanted to learn how to do a lot of the things for myself.

Switching Hosts

I used to have my site hosted with BlueHost, but they messed up my hosting (another long-ish story). I was back and forth on the phone with them trying to get them to fix it, to which they basically said, “Yeah, we can’t help you.” I ended up seeking out a new host, decided on DigitalOcean, moved my whole operation over there, learned Ubuntu and Apache to the extent that I need to, and ay yai yai… The whole thing ended up taking like a month and a half of frustration—just for that one screw-up by BlueHost. It was ridiculous. So yeah, this year has had some rough spots, but all in all, I’d say it all worked out alright.

Wrap Up

So… was doing all of this stuff absolutely necessary? No, not really. Do I see myself doing something like that again anytime soon? I doubt it; at least not in my free time.

There’s a ton of third-party plugins, frameworks, libraries, etc. to facilitate the process, and in most cases, I would definitely say it’s the way to go. The reason I did what I did is because, in my opinion, it makes for excellent training and learning material. When something functions, you know why. When something breaks, you know how to debug. When you need to write some custom code, you don’t always have to rely on your ability to find third-party software that may be overkill. I’d say what I did was definitely worth it. Like I’ve said, I learned a lot by doing this, and I plan to share on this blog what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn.

Now, January 1, 2017—one year later—I’ve finally launched my site. I still have some work to do, but as a general principle, a website is almost never truly finished anyway. There’s always something you can add or do to improve it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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