Building a Website
|Posted by RJ - Jul 28 2012||Tweet|
What We Are Doing
Now that we’ve had the site up for a week now, and now that we’ve smoothed out most of the kinks in it, I think it’s a good time to look back at the several-month-long experience that we’ve had while building this site.
First off, let me offer up a huge thanks to our developer, Danny, and our designer, Erik. The site looks as good as it does and functions as well as it does because of these two guys. Danny has slaved away with us for hours and hours right along with us. He put up with all of our requests, all of our changes, and worked out every issue that we had from the start. Erik, on the other hand, was our knight in shining armor who saved us right at the end. Right when it became clear that we wouldn’t reach our original VidCon deadline, we still had no idea how we would manage getting it up when it was clear that the site design needed a page one rewrite. Erik had the preliminary designs done in less than a week. Will and I were at VidCon when the first image of our homepage was emailed to his phone. When we first saw the design, which is more or less the same as what’s on our site now, we got incredibly excited. Both of these guys did an amazing job, and we truly could not have done it without them.
I can’t remember precisely when Will first came to me with the idea for a website. I can, however, tell you where it started: the advice column. Will and I have been getting questions via letter and email for ages now. We’d try to answer as many as we could, but it quickly got overwhelming. It was especially frustrating to read a lot of the same questions over and over, too, and to read about the literally hundreds of people who had almost the exact same problem but felt that no one else knew how they felt. We knew that it would definitely be a good idea to do a column, but we really didn’t know where we would put it. When the idea of an official website came up, we knew we couldn’t just do a column. That’s when Will suggested a reading blog, since his daily videos interfere with his ability to do reviews. I proposed the “watching” blog, since I don’t read as much. We threw out a bunch of ideas for certain other blogs, but we finally settled on the five that we have. That, plus the column, plus bios, started to sound like a complete site.
The next thing that we needed was a name. We were initially going to go with the much less creative “WillAndRJ.com” (or RJAndWill.com), but it sounded so flat…not to mention narcissistic. I suggested that we give ourselves a few days to come up with a better name. If not, then we’d settle for one of those. Will came up with the idea of using something homophobic, and then turning it on its head somehow. I spewed the line that I frequently repeated when I was younger: “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” We both stopped. I broke the silence… “Well, I’m not Adam, and you’re not Steve. So, we’re good, right?” We immediately messaged Danny to check if the domain name was taken. By the next day, we had bought NotAdamAndSteve.com.
I can honestly say that this site marks my very first experience with creating a web site from the ground up. What’s funny is that virtually all of us interact with the internet and web sites pretty much on a daily basis, but very few of us have a clue as to what it takes to create one, much less create one that hasn’t come from a pre-made template. This was, I’m sad to admit, our first approach. Unfortunately, since we already had a structure in mind, it wasn’t easy to find a theme that fit perfectly. We finally found one in iWeb, and then were shocked to learn that iWeb wasn’t made by Apple anymore. Danny, however, was undeterred, and managed to recreate that iWeb theme on WordPress. We offered up a few tweaks to some of the formatting and the color scheme and so on, and before long, it looked like we were ready to go.
There was only one problem. As much as we liked our original design for its clean and elegant simplicity at first, after staring at it repeatedly over the course of a month and a half, it was starting to look a little plain. Danny threw out the idea of redesigning the site completely, at least in terms of its look. At first, we were apprehensive, especially since we were trying to have our site ready by VidCon, which was about three weeks away at that point. He assured us that it was definitely possible to have the new design ready and operational by then, so we jumped on board with the idea. We went from being moderately excited about the site, to being incredibly excited. We even scheduled an impromptu trip to Jacksonville to shoot some photos to use on our new banners that we had planned on doing.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks went by, and our original designer hadn’t delivered us anything but empty promises. Even worse, it turns out that, when we took the photos for our banners, we had forgotten to do one, which pretty much rendered most of the other photos useless. At this point, we were a week out from VidCon. We had even ordered business cards to pass out there. Now we weren’t sure if we’d have the site ready within the next month. We were complaining about this to Geoffry one night, when he offered a simple fix: “Erik does web design,” he said slyly, knowing that he had just rescued NotAdamAndSteve.com from the brink of oblivion. The following night, we scheduled a Skype call, and I started sketching out a basic idea in my head for what Will and I wanted the pages to look like. I started stumbling across the internet from website to website, clamoring for inspiration wherever I could find it. I’m no professional, so I have absolutely no idea how helpful my sketches were, but Erik assured us via Skype that everything would be just fine. So we made the rounds at VidCon, handing out cards along with a promise: the site will be up within two weeks. We had absolutely no idea if it could be done, but we had to tell people something.
By the time we got back to Florida, Erik was putting the finishing touches on our design. Meanwhile, Danny was scrambling to find a way to handle all the new traffic on his server that he’d be getting. We seemed to be on track. But when Danny finally received the finished design, we had reason to worry again: he had never done anything quite like this before. Damn it if the guy didn’t deliver anyway. He delivered us a rough draft by the following Wednesday, and we toyed with it until we launched that following Friday. Sure, we had a couple of kinks to work out at first, but we were golden after a day or two.
What makes this site so impressive to me is the knowledge that everyone who made this possible did so in their spare time. Erik and I both have full-time jobs, Danny is a student, and Will is both taking and teaching classes. Once more, when we all committed to making this site, none of us had any idea as to what kind of revenue it might generate, or if it would be able to make money at all. So when all of us were plugging away at this project, no one was doing it with money on the mind; we were all doing it for you guys. Our helpers even offered their services pro-bono if it became necessary.
Needless to say, Will and I are incredibly satisfied with the way things turned out. Once more, we’re absolutely thrilled that you guys are happy with the design and the layout and such. As for the content, we’ll do our best to churn out as many posts as we can that you guys enjoy reading. Just be sure to keep giving us feedback. Also, be sure to look out for some new widgets and such popping up on our site.