Note: I shamelessly stole this idea from Hey Shenee – with permission.  She’s awesome – click over and get to know her, then come back for the awkward photos!

In my website work with clients, one of the things I see over and over again, in both website reviews and new website designs, is that we encounter resistance in the strangest of places when it comes about changing your website, especially now that websites are such a strong extension of a brand.

Based on Shenee’s fun project, I decided to open up the closet, dust off the virtual photo album, and let everyone see how my own personal brand has evolved over the years.  This has been an eye-opening experience for me – I even got the year wrong that I started my branded domain by 2 years.  I thought it was 2006, but it was 2004.  Whoops.

I hope you enjoy this flashback – let me know what you think in the comments. Be kind 🙂

Project “Twilight,” May 2004

project twilight

Yes. The dreaded black-background-white-font website. Eep.

When I launched my branded domain in 2004, WordPress existed (I checked), but the two of us had not yet met.  I was an expert coder at the time, so it was no problem to write my own site.  It was at this point that I started giving my creative projects name, and so this was Project Twilight.  Why?  Because I wanted to try and sell some of my photographs, and twilight is the best time to take photos.  Also, in a strange twist of coincidence, the web template I was using to create the floating menu links was also called twilight.

Things that aren’t visible here:

  •  The literature page, where I was running a virtual book club as well as announcing my plans to write a book. (I did eventually end up writing one, but not the one I was thinking).
  • The photo galleries, which pop’ed up into mini windows (*gag*) and had full ultra-res photos that took several minutes to load.  And by several minutes, I mean 17.
  • The special script code that made your mouse button look like the crosshair of a rifle as you navigated the site.  Yes, really.  Consider it a virtual bedazzler.
While this is perhaps the worst website of 2004, I did manage to sell a photograph via it, to both Where Magazine and Time.  No, I’m not kidding – I have a travel photo published in Time.  
This website held its own for quite some time.  After taking a couple of paid blogging gigs that used WordPress, I decided it was time to upgrade.  Plus many of the hand-coded featured I had started were starting to unravel.

Professionally Designed Brand 1.0, November 2008 2008

A clean design, very simple. Screenshot clipped so you can see the whole page easily. I played with the branding regularly, but you'll still see small elements from this design on my site today. I was obviously living in Edinburgh at the time.

WordPress was a huge breath of fresh air, both in terms of the design as well as the ability to update and change the website without a lot of hassle.  I just loved how simple and clean this theme was – this was when I fell in love with typography (and decided my “travel” font would forevermore be Georgia).  I was also learning how color and visual display can affect how people view your work (and navigate your site).

While I didn’t change the color scheme very much on this site, I regularly changed the name and tagline – I just couldn’t get it right.  Some of the permutations:

  • words & pictures to inspire & enthuse
  • the timid traveler
  • sharing experiences (without the word ‘travel’ in the middle – that comes later)
This site had a much better display of my photography, but the real emphasis was on my growing portfolio of writing work, which at this point was growing rapidly with both print and online features.   Strangely, I didn’t have a photo of me on the site except tucked away quietly on the about page.  I wanted the work to stand for itself, and again, I was still struggling with focus on what it was I represented.
Those struggles would soon surface.

A Corporate Redirect – Mid 2009


Nothing to see here - move along please...

In mid 2009, my side business of IT consulting started.  I had actually hired someone to give me some advice on the branding and structure, as I wanted to present myself as “an agency but not an agency” (the good without the bad, as it were).  This turned out to be fruitful, because she helped me identify the problem with – it was trying to be something for everybody, a.k.a. task impossible.

I made the tough, but I believe correct, decision to split my work into two websites – one for consumer travel, and one for my consulting work.  I wasn’t sure what to do with my site here, so as you can see, I put up a crappy landing page as a temporary fix.  It was ugly, but it served the purpose.  A series of fancy redirects ensured most people – especially search engine traffic – ended up on the correct site.

As we all know, this didn’t last forever….

A Splash o’ Peach (or is it Orange?) – Mid 2010

ah 2010

A whole new direction in terms of tone and content, as well as a total new visual.

The site came back with a bang in 2010.  A new visual design helped really helped relaunch things, and I’d had a long think about the organization and content of the site, making sure that the work I wanted to do was made much more prominent.

I used the “Writer. Coach. Traveller. Connector.” line up until  recently actually.  I like how it reflects that I have multiple talents and areas of interest.  But perhaps the overhead electrical lines as the focal image wasn’t the best idea. LOL.

Interesting to note that when this site launched, I started doing some video snippets.  I hated the medium and never mastered it.  I might bring it back sometime.  Not right now though. 🙂

A Man with a Plan – 2012

ah 2012

Clean. Crisp. Less is more. Getting to the point.

I didn’t hate that old design, but I didn’t love it either.  And still, things felt unclear and focused – and that was ok.  I knew I had some topics and areas to explore, and I gave myself some time to do that.  Now, I’m getting to the point – and took some time implement some of the optimization strategies that I use with clients.

An interesting point… I dropped the “that travel guy” brand.  It was a difficult decision, because that branding was very effective. Unfortunately, people thought I was a travel agent, or a tour guide.  Just because a brand is effective doesn’t make it good.

In this revamp, once I got all the details worked out and clear on my offerings and WHY, it seemed like all of my medium and long term plans started flowing.  Success!  Yeah!

As part of this revamp, I brought a lot of the services that I was offering under my “agency not an agency” brand (see above) back under my own name.  It’s interesting because I see a lot of people right now dealing with this line between a personal domain and a branded one. For example,  Corbett Barr chose the opposite route and decided to close his personal brand.  There’s no one “right” answer when it comes to this branding and website stuff.

Hope you like this version of the site – it’s sticking around for awhile.

Moral of the Story

By sharing these photos, I hope I’ve imparted a few bits of wisdom:

  • Firstly, you gotta start somewhere.  Your work will not be perfect on day one, or day two, or possibly even year one or two.
  • Secondly, own it.  While some of these designs are not award-winning, I put passion and hard work into them.  I loved them.  I owned them, because it was the best I could do.
  • Lastly, evolve when you are ready.  Trust me, you’ll know when its time if you listen.

Need some help either starting, owning, or evolving your website? I can help you with that.  I’ll also be doing some live website critiques this month – be sure to signup for my newsletter below so I can let you know more when the time comes!