While I prepared my latest homepage, I took some time to reflect on my previous homepage 'designs', and I found my homepage collection interesting enough that I decided to create a page dedicated to these pathetic attempts at creating a tasteful homepage. Here it is.
Old pages have a tendency to bitrot, and I want to prevent people with too much free time on their hands from reporting broken links and other misbehaving miscellaneousness that they find on my expired pages. Therefore, instead of providing 'live' versions of my old pages, I only give you a PNG sample of what the page looked like in a typical browser. You really don't want to look at the HTML source anyway.
1998: The First Try
OK, so maybe this one is a bit embarrasing. But everyone has to start somewhere.
My first offical homepage was actually a homework project, and it shows. It seems that I was more interested in trying out the Gimp than in creating something that a sensible person would show to his mother.
I think the design concept can be summarized as 'Look Ma, I found the Green Glow From Outer Space effect!'. The well-chosen starry background adds to the air of science fiction. The background also makes the text somewhat hard to read, which is -- in retrospect -- a very good thing. I would rather not comment on the illustrations. The overall effect is not dissimilar to the smell of Vogon poetry at 3AM in the morning.
The one positive thing that may be said of this page is that the content seems to match the visual appearance. If you can't read Hungarian, consider yourself lucky.
Also, the fact that the site consisted of only a single page counts as a definite plus.
Perhaps understandably, after it was finished I wouldn't have touched this shit with a stick, so it remained unchanged until after a few months later, when I couldn't bear to subject innocent people to the sight of the Green Page any more, and my consciousness forced me to come up with something better, or at least less painful.
1999: If At First You Don't Succeed...
Making any kind of change would have taken horribly long, so the homepage remained essentially unchanged for something like four years. Of course, new pages came and went, but they were not linked into the menu 'system', and therefore normally were not accessible to the unitiated.
After a few years, some of those 'hidden' pages started featuring an exciting new layout method called Cascading Style Sheets. But the original, core pages were different. What you can't see on the screenshot is the truly awful HTML implementation. Tables upon tables upon tables. Everything is done with tables. Too lazy too look up at W3C how to float images? No problemo, just put a table around the paragraph. Yecch.
Thankfully I somehow managed to avoid those cute little animated GIFs of flying birds, peeing dogs and whatnot which plagued personal homepages at the time. Also, while most other similar pages had pictures of at least several Winnie The Pooh characters, mine sported a rich selection of quality black and white pictures from a clipart font that I found under the sofa. Back then, clipart fonts were an undiscovered evolutional niche in the homepaginary biosphere.
But I was foolish enough to try to make my page somewhat interactive by using a free third-party hit counter and guestbook service (of course, they are both out of service by now). What next, online chat applets and PHP forums?
2003: Fun With The Website Meta Language
No, my third attempt was actually pretty nice: the design was implemented more or less exclusively in CSS, the menu etc. generation was done in WML (the Website Meta Language, not the WAP thingy). It had a sidebar with the menu that did not scroll with the rest of the page. When the pointer moved over a menu item, a short description of that item magically appeared under the menu area. That nifty feature alone took a whole day to implement, so there was no time left for developing a pleasing overall design. So I got stuck with something brown. Nevertheless, I was happy with my new page.
My build system (yeah, this one had a real build system) supported bilingual (Hungarian/English) pages. You could switch between the two languages at the click of the mouse. Or, if you set up your browser right, you could automatically enjoy my homepage in your favourite language. (Provided that it was Hungarian -- of course, no-one has the energy to write everything in two languages for a sodding homepage, so most of the English pages contained a sad little box that I trained to say that it is sorry, but the page is only available in Hungarian.)
All was well for a time, but unfortunately, I got quickly bored with WML, because it did not support XHTML, and nowadays people consider you a nobody if your site does not use this all-powerful, all-purpose e-technology e-called XML (it slices, it dices!). Yeah. Plus, with its nine compiling phases, including a quasi-C preprocessor, Perl, M4, the left kneecap of my Aunt Helga and God knows what else, WML has the potential of a horny elephant bull, and the attractiveness of the same. I really hated writing markup language extensions in Perl.
2004: The Buzzword-Compatible Approach
The last design was successful, but relatively short-lived: it stayed online for, what, maybe nine months? Then I decided to catch up with the world, and try out this new-fangled declarative transformation language that the folks are raving about, to see if it was living up to my expectations. At my job, I needed to create a quite large documentation site, and before deciding to do it with XSLT, I wanted to try the technology out on something small, like my tiny little homepage.
It turned out that XSLT was exactly what I was missing all along. Writing XML transformations is fun. So I reimplemented my homepage, added a few features like printer-friendly views, and while at it, created a new design to go with the improved internals: an all-singing, all-dancing, all-shining, 21st-century grand extravaganza. Or something. I think it is rather boring, really. But maybe in a good way. It's still mostly brown, though.
Comparing my newest homepage to the previous contestants, we can see that the biggest new feature is the addition of the color blue, which was prominently missing from all previous offerings. (By the way, that blue stuff is my photo of the sea near Marseilles.) Fascinating.