My web design career started about 17 years ago. Two of my older brothers were graduates in Computer Science and one had already launched a successful website with my sister. With some encouragement from family and inspiration from my siblings I started learning coding.
In the beginning I was about as clueless as they come. I didn’t know where to start and believe it or not, there were not a lot of resources back then.
I didn’t know how domains worked or what hosting even was. I had no idea how functionally a website had to be set up for the world to be able to view. After literally a month of searching around and trying to self educate I figured out you had to register a domain first, and then set up a host to store your site files on. Once I figured out how to connect the domain to the host the last piece was to figure out how to show something on my web page.
More searching around and I found you had to name the main file index. something usually html or php etc.
I can still remember the elation the first time I typed in www.boungo.com (which was the first website I ever built) and a blank white screen came up that said “Hi Joseph” (the text I had put in my index.html page).
As time went on I learned by copying and pasting source code from other websites into my website files. I could mimic designs that way and teach myself by deleting out content and then refreshing the page.
I learned all the basics of html that way and discovered along the way that you could use CSS to style everything without having to inline code all the colors, background images etc.
Boungo.com which was my first site was a bookmarking site. I wanted to be able to put all my favorite sites on a home screen to organize myself:
The biggest goal for me though was to open it up to others so they could create an account and add their own bookmarks. This seemed impossible at the time since I had no idea how to code into a site a user area.
It took me about a month to learn that you had to have a database to store user info, and then display the info from the database.
No joke though it took me 6 months of trial and error to figure out how to connect to a database and show the info from it. The first time I was able to finally show data from a database on my screen it made me cry.
The initial joy from when I first showed “hello Joseph” on my screen was basically nothing compared to what I was feeling then.
After getting databased to work it wasn’t a big deal learning about sessions, security, logging in and out, adding content to databases as users etc.
I did get bored with boungo though and moved on to creating a site that I could make money from. My initial site was employed-online.com. It was a simple concept really. I would list 100 or so jobs that were work from home, then put ads from Google around hoping for sponsor clicks.
At the time there were a lot of sites that could drive good traffic for a minimal cost so I would spend something like $500 a month on advertising but then get about $1,500 a month in ad revenue from Google. It worked out really well like this for about 3 years before websites raised their ad rates to be in-line with Google and it made it a zero sum game.
I had the itch at this point and wanted to build something more complex. I wasn’t quite ready to launch my Las Vegas Website Design company, but I did decide to dream a bit bigger and create a job search engine.
I called it Careerfield:
I had a few incarnations but the general idea was a lot like indeed.com. I created a crawler that would scrape the internet for jobs and add them to my database. Users could search based on job type, location or keyword to find matching jobs, and then I would send them over to the destination job page.
It was a simple enough concept and we ended up in the first year getting close to 50,000 hits per day on some of our busier days.
Much like my previous attempt though, the glory only lasted so long before traffic sources dried up and started charging for listings etc. on their sites.
It was at this time that I realized I needed to first learn to master traffic sources instead of trying to only master website design without driving actual traffic to my sites.
Employed-Online, Boungo and Careerfield have been gone now for years but the lessons I learned in my early years of web dev have stuck with me.
Besides being self taught I also attended UNLV getting a BS in MIS. The core classes weren’t fun for me but I loved all the coding and database classes. I seemed to excel at those without even trying which was a nice break after probability and statistics.
After the initial sites I started doing development on my own, with a partner and then back on my own again. I finally settled on Raptor as my brand and haven’t looked backs since!