How Did You Get Into Designing Websites Sam?
by Sam Davis
Funny you should ask that question, as it’s one that I’m asked frequently. However sadly, it’s not a subject that will garner an exciting answer, as there was no brainchild moment, and no prophetic visions – but just a natural progression of a hobby and passion for technology which started abnormally young.
I say “abnormally” young – because at the age of four I was waking up in the morning to go downstairs and copy down pages and pages of Ceefax on to A4 paper in crayon. That’s weird right? I mean, why didn’t I just watch the cartoons instead?!
My interest in anything digital was somewhat intoxicating as it gave me much joy – whether it was my Little Professor calculator, the pages and pages of Oracle (Ceefax’s commercial rival, that is), or my first ever computer – the Amstrad PCW9256.
The PCW9256 – was frankly, awful. The kids of today wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it, and to be fair, if I had a go now I’d probably be baffled – no mouse, keyboard only, no internet connectivity, a black and white screen, no games, and the ability to word process and nothing more. Nevertheless, I used it religiously to type up my monthly four page computer magazine that I sold to my mates at junior school for 10p. The magazine was, for some reason, called “Chigwell”, and contained game reviews, “cheats” and tips for consoles such as the Master System.
We got our first internet experience via Freeserve, which was a CD on the front of a magazine – and then later through Screaming.net, the first “free” internet provider.
As time moved on, so did computers, and the birth of the first widely available Windows computer was met with a lot of glee and excitement. I went through the phases of using Windows 3.1, and then into Windows 95 . We got our first internet experience via Freeserve, which was a CD on the front of a magazine – and then later through Screaming.net, the first “free” internet provider – the caveat being that you had to switch from BT to their horrendous phone service called Localtel. Either which way, the 56K dial-ups were a joy to behold – downloading content at 4KB a second, using Altavista to find out information (rather than trying to locate it on Microsoft Encarta), and then getting the subsequent moans from friends and family who had been trying to get through to us over the phone for the last 4 hours only to hear the engaged tone…
My first publication, “Chigwell”, indicated that publishing was something else that I enjoyed, so it felt like a natural progression to therefore design my first website – which would be created with Microsoft Frontpage – one which was dedicated to AFC Bournemouth. This site was called Boscombe on the Web – and focused on a small and insignificant lower division club called the Cherries, which had not a penny to its name (oh how times have changed!). It was updated frequently by myself and a friend of mine, and not before long, it began to gain prominence in local media for being one of the first major online communities for fans of the football club.
This experience led me to start developing websites for friends and family – making a number of creations – from local courier companies, a dating website called “Was It You?”, and a portal for local football teams to input their football results called “Soccer Saturday” – I WISH I had trademarked that name, Jeff Stelling would owe me a fortune!
I finished school at 18, and I then took a year off deciding what I was going to do, before I bit the bullet and went to University for 4 years – working part time in a local shop, and making and maintaining websites to keep the pennies coming in along the way.
University itself was a strange experience when I look back at it. I didn’t quite embrace the student lifestyle as I lived at home, however I did make some friends for life from it – and I also got very drunk very often. In terms of the course itself though, not a single part of what I learned back then is relevant today. For all of the analysis we did on subjects such as the rise and fall of Boo.com, the future of Pentium processors, Dell computer architecture, and Visual Basic programming – in terms of the knowledge acquired, I emerged from Uni feeling very lost in what was a rapidly moving sector.
It was this year working in industry that actually gave me the skills and belief that I needed to forge a career in the web – much more than the Uni course itself did.
The most crucial part of working at the Uni however was a 40 week placement as an IT Technician, which gave me hands-on experience where I was working with code and writing scripts and databases, which would then stand me in good stead for my first commercial job. It was this year or so working in industry that actually gave me the skills and belief that I needed to forge a career in the web – much more than the Uni course itself did – so for that, I will always be extremely thankful.
The first job in the big wide world took me down several paths, some blind alleyways, and over a lot of rough terrain, but eventually led to where I am today. I was working for an entrepreneur who was fast-thinking and challenging, and throughout, I was involved in a number of exciting and innovative projects. Some worked, some didn’t. However, in this small but developing company, I soon realised that despite how pressured and over-worked I may have been – I was happy to be a lynch-pin of a small business rather than a small cog in a corporate environment. As lucrative as it potentially could have been to have worked for a multi-national IT establishment, I would have missed being able to make a difference at the company for which I was working, as well as the businesses with whom I had strong relationships.
Gaining the experience in a whole range of business related activities gave me such a strong desire to be my own boss and create a company and brand that I could be proud of. I tried to take the good facets of all that I have learned, and channel it into everything that Website Right is – open, honest, and transparent – but primarily, offering an excellent service!
For instance, last week I was delighted to be involved in the launch of Barty’s Parties – a new venture which is operating in Bournemouth, Poole and throughout Dorset.
Since “going alone”, I have overseen the launch of a number of new companies by building their website and helping them get off the ground with my advice and expertise, which is something I find really exciting. To play such a pivotal part in the brand development of a new business is exhilarating. For instance, last week I was delighted to be involved in the launch of Barty’s Parties – a new venture operating in Bournemouth, Poole and throughout Dorset. I created their website, set up their VOIP telephony, email, plus even printed their printed flyers and roller-banners too! Barty’s Parties provide a unique and personal service, assisting their clients to create the perfect party or special occasion – so if you’re in need of some professional event dressing this year, give them a call!
My aim for 2018 is to build positive, long-lasting, and trusted relationships with clients such as this – so that they feel comfortable that they’re getting value for money, but also so that they are happy to recommend my services to others. I’m not looking to expand Website Right majorly at the moment, because I feel it is so important to deliver quality to the people I work with. However, if and when the time is right, I will certainly be ready to take that step – whilst retaining my core values, which I hope sets me apart from the plethora of Bournemouth Web Design agencies that seem to be popping up every two minutes!