Do you remember the first time?
The first time I ever logged on to the World Wide Web is etched in my memory so vividly that it is difficult for me to believe it was almost 20 years ago. My parents had just unveiled a new Compaq Presario desktop computer – what my brother and I perceived to be a glorified word processor following years of “making do” with an electronic typewriter and a third-hand Amstrad machine. At best, we saw it as an opportunity to play the now classic Bullfrog game Theme Hospital in our own home without the need to beg the neighbours for a turn.
What we hadn’t anticipated was the profound and lasting effect that this upgrade would have on our lives. As a family of four we huddled around the computer screen with a shared look of bemusement. We clicked on the icon for Internet Explorer and waited with baited breath as the screeching tone of the dial-up connection reverberated around the room for the first of (possibly) ten thousand times.
What we were presented with surprised us all.
It was a blank screen, with no indication as to what step came next in this novel process aside from an unassuming white bar at the top with “address” written beside it.
It seems ludicrous now to think that “address” was so narrow in meaning back then - a place where a particular property stood, where somebody lived, where post was sent to. To us in 1999, it didn’t stand for a world at your fingertips. Nor did it represent the ability to shop without leaving your living room, to look up travel times for every and all methods of transportation, or to easily discover the most popular restaurants on an unfamiliar high street.
In fact, the only “address” that we knew of full stop was tucked away on the back-cover artwork of Britney Spear’s debut album “…Baby One More Time” – an album that represented a first foray into the sound of a new superstar, for my brother at least! Instead I had, perhaps ill-advisedly, spent too many hours learning the lyrics to a certain Bloodhound Gang track to care too much for Britney. That is until, with two fingers carefully caressing the keys, I typed in the address that has been engrained in my brain ever since – www.peeps.com/britney.
And that was it. Interestingly, I have next to no recollection of the website itself. I couldn’t tell you the colour scheme or what information it held. I expect there was probably a fan mail address, perhaps some song lyrics. It didn’t really matter. What did matter was that I’d had my first glimpse as to what the future held. That I could input a string of letters and symbols in a particular order and find myself looking at content that had been created and posted nearly 3,500 miles away, and instantly!
A now-favourite clip of mine of Jeremy Paxman interviewing David Bowie re-surfaced after the latter’s death in 2016. During a Newsnight segment in 1999, Bowie argued against Paxman’s dismissal of the internet as “just a tool”, proclaiming “I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg…I think the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society – both good and bad – is unimaginable. I think we’re on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Even as a university graduate on the look-out for my first career step, I was yet to fully comprehend – or rather, appreciate – the power of the internet. I was in the first wave of Facebook subscribers when it hit UK shores during my residency at the University of Sheffield – a time when an email address from a higher education establishment was a prerequisite for membership. I streamed live TV via a dongle on my laptop. I printed my lecture notes directly from the History Department’s intranet portal. A modern age? It certainly was, and yet it still hadn’t occurred to me that my future career path could exist within this digital realm.
It wasn’t until undertaking my first full-time role within the marketing team at Warwick Racecourse (part of the larger Jockey Club Racecourses group) that it finally dawned on me. One of my first solo projects as a junior marketer was to oversee the redesign and relaunch of the company website. And guess what? I relished every second.
I thrived on the challenges that getting to grips with new content management systems presented. I learned how to use Dreamweaver in my spare time. I spent my weekends immersed in Photoshop and Adobe Fireworks to create my own website banners, and building websites from scratch in WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace and Wix – just for the love of designing!
And now, after spending in excess of ten years learning my trade in the marketing sphere, I am privileged to be able to dedicate a large proportion of my freelance hours to website design. Every single website is different, with its own set of challenges and requirements, and it is that endless potential – so eloquently alluded to by Bowie – that makes my new role feel less like work and more like fun.
If you’re interested in a new website or a refresh – however big or small – get in touch with H!LANDER today for an informal chat about your project . We’re confident we can deliver results for your business - we were born to make you happy*, after all!
*we accept no responsibility for ill-conceived Britney puns.