Site History

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

—Leonardo da Vinci

historyA Little Stroll Down Memory Lane

I didn’t always run such a fast, responsive, user-friendly, and content-laden website. On the contrary, the site you see before you is the result of thousands of hours and dollars spent, not to mention plenty of mistakes.

This page details the history of my professional web endeavors—an evolution that continues to this day. Get ready to laugh at some of the design choices below.

There. You’ve been warned.

To borrow a line from the classic Marillion song “Slainte Mhath”, this is the story so far. Lest you worry, this isn’t a boring journey. Keep reading and you’ll find plenty of Breaking Bad, Seinfeld, and other pop-culture references below.

Really Humble Beginnings

I launched my first proper website way back in 2002 with the unfortunately long URL of www.simonhrisconsultingllc.com. It was a not-so-glorified version of my resume. As a recently self-employed person, I mostly just wanted an e-mail address on my business card that didn’t include prodigy.net or aol.com. That just didn’t strike me as professional.

I then purchased www.simonhris.com in 2004. I retired the old, clunky site and hired a proper web developer in Canada. Here’s a picture of that quaint site:

It was more of a brochure than anything. Remember, back in those days of Web 1.0, blogging and social media as we know it really didn’t exist.

The Mid-2000s: The Silent Period

I didn’t do all that much on the Web from 2004 to 2008 and I even let my prior domain lapse. Sure, I occasionally wrote articles for online newsletters, but I spent almost all of my professional time doing enterprise-system consulting. As such, I couldn’t really blog about the particulars of my projects. Client privacy must be respected. It’s like chemistry.

Phil Enters the Web Era in Earnest

At the end of 2008, I was knee-deep in writing the first version of Why New Systems Fail. I realized that publishing a book without a supporting website behind it didn’t make a great deal of sense. After buying the domain, I developed, and launched www.philsimonsystems.com. Why that domain? Simple: the site www.philsimon.com was already taken and I couldn’t think of a better URL. Another Phil Simon in Pennsylvania owned its rights.

Damnation!

Yeah, there are others out there, some of whom are evidently quite skilled at what most of the world calls football.

Getting Serious

From 2008 to mid-2010, I maintained www.philsimonsystems.com as a static HTML site—not a true content management system (CMS). To put it mildly, it wasn’t exactly pretty. Here’s the post announcing it with a screenshot below:

I know. You’re laughing. In case you’re curious, that’s a little Wix code thrown into the upper right-hand corner there. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

Funnier still is that way too many sites still look like this in 2015, but don’t get me started.

At the same time, I blogged at philsimonblog.wordpress.com and manually updated my “main” site. I started to realize that maintaining two different sites was downright silly. (Keep reading, though, I reversed my thinking in the not-too-distant future). Brass tacks: I could use WordPress to create a more robust, professional site.

Getting More Serious: Embracing WordPress

After about six months of manually updating two disparate sites, I retired the WordPress blog. I started using WordPress as a full CMS. Here’s a picture of my first truly integrated WordPress site:

Entering the New Decade

From 2008 to 2012, www.philsimonsystems.com served as main web presence. I had also launched what I thought were pretty respectable book-related sites for www.thenewsmall.com and www.theageoftheplatform.com. Here they are:

And that was the plan: maintain these separate WordPress’ sites, as well as sites for my micropublishing company and my since-retired productivity app.

In hindsight, it was a little too much.

The Great Phil Migration and Consolidation Project

By 2012, I realized that I had gone a bit overboard and had a moment of clarity. In total, I was maintaining and paying for six different sites and, in the process, losing my mind. It was high time to bring everything together—at least to the extent possible. I thought that I could benefit from a stronger and more unified web presence, but there was another issue: My sites were far too slow.

Using low-cost companies such as GoDaddy no longer made sense if I wanted optimal site performance, tools, and support. Because of shared hosting, another person’s or company’s poorly designed site could easily cause my own site to throttle. I could effectively “inherit” another site’s hack.

I had graduated, and it was time to remedy the hosting problem once and for all, even at a higher cost. I moved all of my sites to WPEngine with only one regret: I had waited too long to move to the big leagues.

In November of 2012, Act Now Domains alerted me that www.philsimon.com had finally become available. I had agreed to scoop it up for the paltry sum of $70. (I would have paid much, much more.)

Voila! Just like that, I owned my ideal domain. Here’s the e-mail:

Not every e-mail sucks.

Here is the first version of my new domain, www.philsimon.com, built on the Twitter Bootstrap and launched four months later:

phil_new

Hat Tip: Todd Hamilton

This site served me well for a little while, but tweakers like me are never satisfied. I was simply unable to make many of my own changes. Because I’m no PHP or CSS expert, I couldn’t easily experiment with different styles and layouts. What’s more, nascent, more visually oriented WordPress themes and frameworks were starting to make real progress. While we’re not at the point of complete dragging and dropping, no longer do you have to be a proper web developer to build a cool site—if you select the right theme. Unfortunately, my theme didn’t jibe with my skills and my desire to do much of my own tweaking.

In September of 2014, I moved all of the posts and other content from my two book-related sites to www.philsimon.com. Those sites were becoming nuisances to maintain and I started to see the benefits of a more consolidated web presence. All links from those sites now forward to new locations with the exception of a few duplicate posts (most announcements).

Divi and the Site’s Current Incarnation

I love having the ability to do most of my own site tweaking.

On October 22, 2014, I launched a major overhaul of this site. For a bunch of reasons detailed in this post, I moved to Divi, a premium WordPress theme from Elegant Themes. (Quick version: I wanted to do more of my own site tweaking without calling developers.) Here’s the post announcing it with a pic below:

Hat Tip: Babs Hobbs

I did quite a bit of research before selecting Divi. As I know from my previous years of working with WordPress, themes can certainly be replaced. Still, the choice of a theme is a big one and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It’s safe to say that I’m all growns up.

Most Recent Updates

In August of 2015, I upgraded to Divi’s latest version with the help of Geno Quiroz. Many improvements qualify as under-the-hood, although we did some cool style things.

Hat Tip: Monterey Premier

The Future

I can’t predict the future, but I’m relatively sure of two things. First, I can’t see moving away from WordPress. It rocks. Period. Second, I doubt that I’ll ever stop noodling with my site. The geek in me enjoys it far too much. Recently I’ve been experimenting with Google-like doodles in the site’s header. I added the Paris peace symbol after the November attacks.