Ten years ago on this day, I registered the Clickfire.com domain and began what has been my most satisfying website creation experience ever. When I started out, I truly had no idea what I was doing and where it would go. As I think about it, one of the most important things to me was to establish a web identity. I wanted a little piece of Internet turf where I could live and play and totally be my creative self. I want to put forth a little history of how things began and evolved over the decade.
Let’s dust off the old hard-drives and see what we can uncover from the Clickfire archives.
Clickfire Begins: 1997
The other day I was digging through some memorabilia and what did I find? The original Clickfire.com domain registration invoice from Network Solutions. I took a deep breath and read the print that I received as an aspiring web designer in the late 1990’s:
Thank you for registering the Internet/World Wide Web domain shown above.
Your welcome! I reflected on the personal journey I experienced since registering this, my first domain. I won’t say anything more about the journey now except that it was worth it.
I registered Clickfire.com at Network Solutions for a price of $100 with a duration of two years. After looking over some of my old emails from the 1990’s, I’m not even sure I understood the difference in domain registrar and host. The domain sat hostless for a little while and it is possible it could have been on Best.com hosting, which is now owned by Verio. Soon I was able I put together a very simple one-page site with a purple background and a graphic or two and text nestled inside some HTML code. I don’t remember how long it took this beginning web designer to make that first page look perfect, but I’d guess at least a day. The early site seems in retrospect much like a personal site, but I have emails of myself referring to it as company as I was actually doing part time web design work for clients. I lost the original files long ago in a hard-drive crash, so use your imagination for now and take my word that it will get better.
New Clickfire Design, Mission and Media Content: circa 1999
I moved my hosting to an Atlanta ISP and hosting company called Speedfactory. They were local, cheap and offered Microsoft FrontPage extensions (I found support emails to Speedfactory hosting dated in late 1999 complaining about FrontPage extensions not working). Speaking of design tools, my web graphics tool of choice was Paint Shop Pro, now owned by Corel.
The tag line was “Clickfire Media Powered by Emory Rowland” and the purpose was:
- Web design company site
- Repository for web design, graphics and software experiments
- Place to put my resume (wow it sure looks different now)
- To host family pics and propagandistic images I made of my cousin and gaming nemisis “Clapper” which I made while learning to do web graphics
- A place to post gaming reviews, political articles, Christian testimony, resume, fiction, poetry, etc.
This snippet from the about page that I dug up sounds odd now:
I believe that in order to be a successful developer, one must ENJOY working with computers. I come in contact with many IT workers who have chosen their vocation due to the potential of making lots of money. Some are technically adept but take no pride in their design. Others are artists who prefer the brush over the keyboard. Either extreme leaves users scratching their heads. I believe that in order to be a successful developer, one must assume both a technical and a creative role. One must be both Bill Gates and Andy Warhol.
I really miss this design. Ah, the days when we didn’t worry about things like validation, SEO, conversion or having to have a web 2.0 look. This is my Web site and I’ll design it like I want, thank you! I used Microsoft Frontpage, Paint Shop Pro and a freeware program called ZPaint which I later wrote about. Looks amazingly like a blog theme doesn’t it?
I had thought that Clickfire was going to be my web design company site, but I found myself getting more into publishing. I couldn’t wait to create something cool and give it away for free. One of the most important events of this time was writing a meta tag maker program after taking a visual basic class. I decided to let Clickfire visitors download and use the software for free. The program ended up receiving some pretty good ratings from well-known software download sites and seemed to go over quite well back in the days when search engines were yet young. The result was that I won a lot of traffic and began thinking more about SEO and how I could monetize the site and still keep giving stuff away for free.
Second Clickfire Design, New Mission Statement: mid 2002
By this time, I was having so much fun creating and publishing free stuff on Clickfire that i decided to change the entire focus to “Viewpoints, Tools and Content for Webmasters.” The beige background was one of Suzana’s favorite colors and I liked it as well and was ready for something different, something loud and bright. The logo was my idea(s).
Key Events that Occured During this Period
- Suzana, my wife to be came on board to project manage, edit, design and create graphics
- I began working from home as a full time web designer
- Started using affiliate advertising/Google AdSense in tandem with SEO
- Started blogging
Web Hosting Reviews: circa late 2005
In 2005 a friend of mine named Jamie Ontiveros suggested I start doing web hosting reviews. I had referred him to a host that later went out of business. The company that bought the host was hacked and Jamie and some of my web design clients lost their files. Later figured out that the host was just a basement reseller. I suggested Jamie give BlueHost a try. He did and suggested I try their affiliate program through Commission Junction. Jamie is a super smart and nice guy. I ignored his idea for a while. I had another CJ affiliate program that was on the upswing, eHarmony.
Looking back, I am glad that we started the web hosting review program here for many reasons. The Web host reviews, most written by Douglas Hanna and a few by me, have helped Clickfire grow and given consumers guidance, no doubt. But, the more site building I do, the more I am aware of the intimate relationship a webmaster must have with his host. You’ve got to know their capabilities, where they put things, how to cajole support to get what you need and how to make your site a pleasant experience for users while securing it to keep the rats out. I took the reviews a step further and committed to have the reviewers log in and perform actions to test each hosting account before reporting back. I wrote this shortly after deciding to publish web host reviews:
Thanks to the success of web host affiliate advertising, everyone these days is quite eager to “help” you find a the best web hosts. I now fear that I have fallen into the shadowy recesses of performing web host reviews. I hope you will forgive me. There is no shortage of web host reviews, there is just so much to be said about the fiercely competitive, sometimes cut-throat and always growing web hosting industry. Web host company rip offs are not hard to find, while scouring for a good web host deal can take days of reading reviews and fine print. I hope to be able to warn Clickfire readers about some hosting problems to look out for and also point out some benefits of certain web hosts. And, ahem…still benefit from web host affiliate programs.
Third Clickfire Design – November 2006
While the green, beige, yellow and black design was great for ad click throughs as many didn’t like sticking around and starring at that design, it was time for a more professional and more web 2.0 design.
Free Website Templates – July 2007
To celebrate Clickfire’s 10th anniversary, we have been giving away free website templates for the past 6 months. I’ve had fun doing this. I would like to do more free templates and maybe even some WordPress themes.
I can see the light at the end of the data pipe getting brighter. No more SEO contest distractions. I plan to stay focused on “Viewpoints, Tools and Content” and looking for partnerships and ways to get others involved in Clickfire. My desire is to explode much more interesting and helpful content onto the site now that we finally have WordPress powering most of it. Happy 10th birthday to Clickfire. I’ll track back this post in another 10 and we’ll see how we did!