How I started
The first website I made, was a photo site, for my friend Rachel. I didn't know anything about doctypes, validation, accessability, CSS, or even HTML itself.
Someone pointed me to a dutch HTML-manual, and I started.
For the most part of it, Rachel told me what she wanted it to look like, and I coded the pages. As I only had a 486 with very limited diskspace and memory, the only browser I could check with, was Internet Explorer 5.5. Rachel had Netscape 6 or 7, which I asked her to use just to see if the full page would fit on a 1024x768 screen if one were using Netscape instead of IE. Mind you, I had never heard of the existence of other browsers!
Rachel wanted a title at the top of the page and a menu to the left, so I used frames to accomplish that.
When I had questions, I asked in alt.html, alt.www.webmaster and other HTML related newsgroups, and many times the answers included 'frames are evil', 'splash screens are bad', 'don't use tables', 'don't mess with my browser' and more.
After a couple of weeks of ignoring most of the advice, I started using CSS for the styling, and finished the site in March 2003.
As if I hadn't sinned enough against the no-frames-no-tables-no-fixed-width-law, Rachel wanted an 'opening page', which I later learned is called splash screen.
I now know all the disadvantages of the way I did it and how it worked and all, but still, it was my first site, and it looked pretty good too. Have a look at a printscreen of the homepage of the first version. Later we changed the color scheme, which looked better already.
In the meantime I was still lurking in a few newsgroups, and started to see, that indeed, frames are evil most of the time, tables aren't the right thing to do always, and that it's better to design in a flexible way, than make the user's browser window blow up to full screen.
So, I started to think about a new layout. One which would have to be flexible to a certain extent, without frames, without font size set in pixels or points, and still showing Rachel's photos in a way she would like.
After having made the first edition of Rachel's site using a 486 on dialup through a 33k6 modem, I wasn't going to make the second edition the same way. So I built myself a new pc, bought a 19 inch flatscreen monitor, and registered for ADSL.
In January of this year1, I finished the new site. It still has tables, to lay out the thumbnails the way Rachel likes it, but the frames have gone, and so have the fixed width, the popup and the pixelfixed fonts. There still is a way too large splash screen, done by French artist Geoffrey Rousselot, which I don't have a say in.
In the past 2 years I've developed my skills and recently started my own web design company, Locus Optimus. Although I now design web pages for a living, it's still also a big hobby — I really enjoy my work.