25th Anniversary of this Website

in 1994, I had only learned about the web a couple days earlier when I was using Mosaic to snoop around on the web and found a little application that let my desktop computer serve web pages. I thought it sounded cool to make a little webpage and see how it worked. I looked at the HTML source code of a few other pages, put together a photo of me with my mother's dog, used Photoshop to make a little graphic bar, and started up the software and posted something on USENET to announce the page. That was 25 years ago.

BTW the greenish background was just a random color that I sampled out of the graphic bar. This color stuck around for a long time.

my first web page
My first webpage. This is the archived version originally saved around 1996

 

None of the IT guys knew anything about the web in September of 1994 so they let me keep it going for a few months. I eventually had to find a service provider that knew what a website was. I initially just moved the pages I had created over to Mindport.com. This page made it on to the original Yahoo.com Sea Kayak directory. Around 1997 I decided to get my own domain name. I saw that Guillemot.com was available and I figured I would get that. Unfortunately, about 24 hours before I was ready to spend the money a french graphics card company got that, so I had to settle for Guillemot-Kayaks.com where I started to get a little more sophisticated with my page design.

Original Guillemot-Kayaks.com home page
The original Guillemot-Kayaks.com home page - 1997

 

It was about this time that I started the KayakForum as well. At this point the html was all coded by hand to created the pages. Eventually I got Dreamweaver that allowed for some more complicated graphic designs. In the late 1990's I had several iterations of a homepage.

Home page 1998
Home Page 1998
Home Page Early 1999
Early 1999
Home Page Late 1999
Late 1999

 

My catalog of designs at this time was fairly small, so I could create a navigation system with hand coding fairly easily.

Catalog 1999
1999 Catalog Page

 

I decided fairly early on that I wanted to provide a lot of information about my designs to help make it easier to choose what boat to build. I came up with a system for navigating between the designs to help prospective builders quickly move between each design.

Guillemot Design Page
Design Page 2001

 

At this point I had 11 different designs and I had 5 pages for each design to show the different information. The navigation between each was hand coded with the help of Dreamweaver. While this system worked fine, the addition of just one new design meant the re-coding of 55 pages and the addition of 5 more. I wanted to add more designs to my catalog and this system was becoming untenable.

At the suggestion of one of my customers, I started looking into content management systems (CMS). That customer recommended I look into Drupal, an open source CMS. The price was right and it looked like it would do what I needed.

First Drupal Site
First Drupalized Guillemot Website circa 2006

 

The beauty of a CMS is it handled a lot of the mechanics of linking one page to a the next. I didn't need to create new graphics and figure out links from one page to the next. It made the task of maintaining a large and growing website much less daunting. In 2006 I moved my site into the Drupal CMS.

Back in about  2003 I had added online ordering to my website. This used a separate shopping cart system (Called Miva) where I could create products and have a system for online payment etc. I had cobbled this into my existing website by putting order buttons on the pre-existing web pages that linked over to the online ordering system. It worked well enough, but was a little clunky. Unfortunately, when I first converted my website to Drupal there was no ecommerce solutions available that worked natively within Drupal. As a result, I had to continue to create links between the Drupal CMS generated pages and the Miva shopping cart system.

This created a bit of a disconnect from the information and the purchasing of the plans that was a little confusing. Eventually Drupal got an ecommerce capability (called Ubercart), so it was time to upgrade.

2009 New Home Page
2009 Upgraded CMS, New Homepage

 

This system is pretty much what I have been using for about 10 years until now. I have changed up the home page a few times since then, but really the underlying system has not changed much.

The old homepage
The old home page from mid 2013 until now (November 2019)

 

This website has served me well for a long time. There are still pages that I originally hand coded that are still working, but the existing CMS was getting long in the tooth and experiencing issues. Back in May or so I had to shut down the ability to accept credit cards because of security flaws on the old system. The old theme I was using did not play well with mobile devices (When I choose this theme the iPhone was barely 3 years old).

Because of the way I developed the site over the years, there is still a lot of things baked into the site just didn't work all that well. The fact that the catalog and the online ordering started out as separate systems created a clunky connection between the two. For years, I have wanted to clean it up and make it easier to navigate. Yet, at the same time, there is a lot of information that I want to keep accessible.

Over a year ago I was complaining to someone while at the WoodenBoat School that I really needed to do something about my site, but was having trouble finding someone to help me. Up to this point I have done most of the website work myself. With the acceptation of hiring someone to write a module to display my kayak data and then hiring someone else to upgrade that module, I have done most of the maintenance myself, but even though the new version is still in Drupal, the migration to the latest secure version was beyond what I was ready to tackle. Someone in the WoodenBoat School dining room suggested he could get me in touch with reliable help.

That turned out to be Nic Laflin at nlighteneddevelopment.com. He has been crucial to making this new system work. As of today, November 11, 2019 this is still a work in progress, but the fact that you are reading this blog post means the system is working. You will find that a lot is still the same, but the underlying system should work better and hopefully the information you need will be easier to find.

I hope you enjoy the new site. As I said, it is still a work in progress, I plan to make some more changes with the basic look-and-feel theming, get the performance data back on line, and display the photos you send me of your boats better. If you find any broken links, please let me know. If you have any suggestions about how the whole thing could be improved, I am open to suggestions.

         Thanks,

                      Nick