I’ve been designing websites for the past 17 years! Hard to believe, but it’s true. Back then I used Microsoft Front Page, a WYSIWYG editor that I found very easy. I never used the templates and instead, I dove into finding my own free clip art and images, backgrounds, and layouts. I downloaded fonts, played around with hex numbers, and learned all I could about SEO, affiliate marketing, and building a mailing list. I got my first taste of code when I started customizing the website in the HTML view.
My first website was devoted to Preschool Education and I called it PreKSmarties.com. Link exchanges were big back then and a great way to meet other SAHMs who were growing online businesses. We guest posted for each other, advertised in each other mailing lists, and became online friends. Most of my articles were about teaching reading and music. Many were geared towards parents of gifted children.
After a couple of years my kids were out of PreSchool and I lost interest in the topic. I sold that site to a marketing company who saw its value as a money-maker based on the commissions I was getting from sales of Hooked On Phonics.
My next project was the community website for the Upper Perkiomen Valley – UpperPerk.com. Again, I made good use of the country clip art that everyone was using in the 90s, I put together an “I remember when” page where readers could contribute their memories, a local news page in partnership with the local newspaper and a “virtual valley” photo tour which later became Google Maps (just kidding!) I designed web pages for individual businesses and linked them to the site. Hard to believe I charged a flat fee for my services – $100 – whether it took a day or a week. I was not a very savvy business woman. Eventually it was decided that the domain name and site would be better served by an “official” entity, not just a SAHM who wasn’t even a native to the area. So I sold that site and went on to buy another domain name.
Amazon claims to be the first to enter the affiliate marketing arena, but I remember Commission Junction and LinkShare as my two go-to affiliate sites right around the same time. I built “A Gift Idea” as a directory of affiliate links to online stores selling gift baskets, flower arrangements, and food. It was a steady stream of passive income, but once again, building the site, (and adding that money-making code) was more fun than maintaining it. And yes, you guessed it, I sold that site too.
In 2000 my kids were all in school and I decided to go back to teaching piano — only this time I’d teach online. This was before Skype was invented. Before YouTube came on the scene. I know you’re thinking “How could she possibly teach piano online?” Well, via email, of course! I had students from places like Turkey, Kuwait, and Alaska. We took the time (lots of time) to send lengthy emails to each other describing technical problems and solutions, ideas for practicing and new repertoire. It became very cumbersome and took forever. I was always “on call” and rather than restructure my pricing to reflect the time I was putting into it, I dropped the idea and went back to teaching piano IRL.
It was around this time that Blogger came on the scene. Microsoft FrontPage was becoming extinct. And I was heading in a different direction.
In 2006 I went back online. This time I started with WordPress. First it was WordPress.com and then I moved to the self-hosted, WordPress.org blogs. I blogged about street fashion, piano lessons, and the importance of play and creativity in daily life. I interviewed women and wrote about midlife reinvention. I even had a blog about female artists of a certain age and called it Hot Flash Artists.
The best part of each one of these projects was building it. I realize now that I like figuring out the ins and outs of new templates. I like getting under the hood, seeing how everything works, and then customizing it. I like looking at “source code” for my favorite websites. I love finding colors, images, and fonts — everything that goes into branding. To me figuring out code is like working on a puzzle. It’s creative. It’s play.
So now, after all these years, I’m making it official.
Yes. Finally I’m going to learn how to code, more than just my rudimentary HTML. I’m taking my first online class in HTML, CSS, JQuery, Wireframes, and Photoshop. I’m diving in and hoping to come out more confident in my skills and ready to offer web design services to boomers like me, who are ready to design their own second act.
I’ll be posting work samples and new ideas about how I can help clients get set up online. If you’re interested in contacting me about how I can help you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!