ART IS NEVER FINISHED, ONLY ABANDONED.
—LEONARDO DA VINCI
- A Little Stroll Down Memory Lane
- Really Humble Beginnings
- The Mid-2000s: The Silent Period
- Phil Enters the Web Era in Earnest
- Getting Serious
- Getting More Serious: Embracing WordPress
- Entering the New Decade
- The Great Phil Migration and Consolidation Project
- Divi and This Site’s Current Incarnation
- Replacing the Engine
- 2021 and the Future
- The End of Bloat
- An Icon-Centric Version
A 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.
Yeah, there are others out there, some of whom are evidently quite skilled at what most of the world calls football.
Phil Simon FC will be making its debut at the Cup!
Phil Simon Football Club were founded in January 2012 by Sol … https://t.co/UrU22uF3Bn
— Pinas Cup (@pinas_cup) October 17, 2015
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 websites, 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:
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 This 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.
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. #VendorLockin
It’s safe to say that I’m all growns up.
Replacing the Engine
On June 19, 2018, I launched a much-improved version of this site. The codebase is far more stable than its predecessor. I had accumulated a bunch of extraneous files and data in the WordPress database and it was high time that I cleaned the thing out. While the appearance doesn’t look that different from its antecedent, the site is faster, more stable, and more secure.
2021 and 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. I’ve been experimenting with Google-like doodles in the site’s header. I added the Paris peace symbol after the horrible November terrorist attacks.
In 2020, I did the following:
- Added AJAX Live Search
- Blew up the header
- Finally fixed a nagging mobile-display issue
- Redesigned my in-action page
- Added sticky buttons to the sides of most pages
The End of Bloat
In August of 2021, Elegant Themes introduced a long-awaited update to Divi. As a result, all Divi sites—including this one—should run significantly faster. Indeed, bloat has plagued Divi for years. Hat tip to rock star Jason Champagne for making some key under-the-hood tweaks.
An Icon-Centric Version
In late 2021, I embarked on a project to incorporate more icons into my site. In many cases, images took the place of words.