I finally got around to updating my professional site, so I’ll write some boring details about the process

I updated varoper.com. It had sat untouched for almost 4 years prior, and really needed it. It’s been through approximately 2398475293847 iterations. The Wayback Machine has its first record of varoper.com on January 26, 2002. I believe I created the first design for a class project, and then went from there.

In terms of sites I’ve built, it wasn’t the first. Technically my first website was a beautiful monstrosity on Tripod.com, created in 1996 during study hall in high school. My first site that I built for someone else was for the Department of Adult Health in VCU’s School of Nursing back in 2000. And ptocheia.net, my personal dump site, first came to life somewhere around August 8, 2001 (or at least, the 1st record the Wayback Machine has of it).

These weird reminders that in 2 more years, my html skills will be old enough to drink. And I’ve been doing PHP for 13 years now. And god I’ve logged some serious time on these internets. I try to avoid thinking about these things in the context of my last job, better to focus on the fact that I’m no longer there, and I can try to be somewhere that appreciates the time and effort I’ve spent building all of these internets.

Anyhow.

My first iteration of the site was straight html & images. No css or anything, and I’m pretty sure it involved a giant brain that I’d painted, which I scanned in and used to represent my head or something. Wish I still had that .jpg (or the painting itself) somewhere, but it seems to be long gone.

According to the Wayback Machine, I was clearly uneducated about how to present oneself professionally. Specifically: back in college, I was on a DDR team called Team Yaoi. I built the website for the team, & linked to it from my resume, available from my website at the time. The Team Yaoi website included a page that consisted of nothing but erotic furry art, drawn by myself & a few other members of the team. Classic. Of course, I did land a job using that website (plus a few others) as examples of work, but it’s definitely not the sort of content I’d consider including on a resume now. On a related note, I might have to throw up stuff like that somewhere just for historical/hilarity purposes, to share with those who have long forgotten such things exist. The early 2000s were a great time for beautifully awful websites.

At said job, I learned shell scripting and m4 (a macro language), and redid my website using those to generate the html. They were easier to write than the perl I was also learning at the time, and strangely satisfying for someone who was still excited at the idea of server side includes.

Sometime after that I rebuilt the site in php. I had a period of voluntary unemployment after quitting my watercolor job, and I used that as an excuse to build PHP sites and learn OOP. So I made processes where, in order to add a new piece of artwork to my gallery, I’d just upload the image, and then add some content to a text file, and it would automatically get pulled onto the site.

At some point I realized this was a huge pain for updating text content. However, I spent a couple years at a job that overworked me and left me extremely burnt out, followed by a job that left me feeling unimportant and disillusioned. This bled over into my enjoyment of building websites, such that I had a very hard time convincing myself to work on a website during my off time. I am happily unemployed at the moment, and chose to dedicated this delightful state of joblessness to redoing my personal site, amongst other things, and to take my time doing so in order to rediscover how much I really enjoy making these internets.

I built the site in Drupal 7 because Drupal 7 is what I do. I briefly contemplated implementing it in Drupal 8, but it’s in beta and it seemed a rather bad idea to build one’s primary site in a system that might break at any point. I purposefully chose to build a few things more difficultly than I otherwise might have – I built a custom module to generate the contact form, and chose to write preprocess functions in my template.php where someone else might have implemented a module. Part of this was for skill refresher/building, and another part because the “there’s a module for that” mentality can lead to implementing something large and bloated when all you might really need is a simple code snippet for your particular circumstance.

The design of the site is stark, bold, black and white with strong color accents – this veers away from past iterations in that I decided to design based on a color palette I personally found appealing, rather than something I thought looked more professional and/or trendy. So, blacks & whites, with colors only for linked items (and a different color for each section of the website). Having a neutral setting allows the art to pop, and makes it clear what is a link and what isn’t. I tried to make the responsiveness as smooth as possible, and I spent extra time doing custom alt tags on all images in accordance with accessibility standards as suggested by WebAIM. It is depressing how many otherwise modern sites don’t do basic accessibility. I don’t claim to be an expert, but some of the stuff is so easy to do.

Anyhow, I’m glad to be finally done with the site, so I can focus on other things. Need to do art more regularly, and I still have a giant pile of short stories that stare at me guiltily. I’m also thinking of maybe adding a “crafts” section to the site at some point too – this would accommodate my painted shoes and refinished furniture and weird things I sew and whatnot.

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