Past Lives: The HTML Days

It’s been a running gag among LI fans that we do a complete site redesign almost as soon as the last one is up. But, of course, now that’s all completely unnecessary, because this version of the site is the absolute final complete expanded director’s cut super-special edition!

Until the next one.

Nonetheless, we thought it would be fun to peek back at the previous incarnations of the site, just to see how far we’ve come. This article will be limited to the HTML-based designs of the site, since delving into the many design decisions of our database-driven days would deprive nerds around the world of the chance to speculate on our motives. (“Brady did PHP becuz he rulz lol”)

Version -1: Many of you saw the “original” version of the site when we posted it about a year ago, but, oddly enough, the “original” version isn’t the first version. Yes, we did a redesign before we even launched the site. The actual first version looked like this. Pretty wretched, eh? I don’t remember why the stick figures holding each other hostage seemed like such a good idea. Perhaps it was just a less memorable example of the “pre-9/11 mindset” in action?

Version 1: For those who didn’t get to see it, the site looked like this when it first launched in April 2002. Almost immediately we realized it wasn’t going to do the trick, and so we started tweaking it. The picture of me with the phone would be replaced each month with a different photo (Hans eating a giant cardboard pizza coupon, Sonya with Sammy Sosa, etc.) We also replaced the green links with multicolored 3-D graphic links, which were impossible to read. Any of you who stuck with us through the “illegible menu” era, you’re brave souls.

Version 2: The other major problem with the V1 design was the color scheme- had we been a radioactive goth club, the colors might’ve fit, but otherwise they were just a bit too dark and creepy. Version 2, which showed up during summer 2002, is much more colorful. And there’s an animated logo! Stretching the bounds of technology, this site. Except for the giant GIF button thing. Not sure what that was all about.

Version 3: Sonya managed to fall asleep at about 9:30 pm on New Year’s Eve 2002, which meant I spent the better part of the night (and most of New Year’s Day 2003) redesigning the site so as to be a lot less embarassing. This was the foundation of the site’s look for the bulk of 2003, with plenty of tweaking each month.

Version 4: Something about big yellow circles seemed appealing toward the end of 2003. I think the goal was to make the mainpage less text-heavy, a goal which it manages not to accomplish. One thing that doesn’t show up in this version: rolling over the small circles would bring up the name of the section in the blank area to the left of the LI logo, which was pretty hi-tech for back then.

Version 5: By this point redesigns were just expected by y’all, and so I was hoping to make it really count by doing an all-Flash mainpage. This also marked our switch of main colors, from blue to purple. This decision has been discussed at length in Bob Woodward’s 2004 book Color Guard: George W. Bush and the Redesign of LivingIndefinitely.com, so I won’t say much more here except that we thought it would be a nice change and purple seemed like a good idea at the time.

All in all, the many-changing looks of our little site are marked by slight improvements in the swankiness department as well as adding higher-tech stuff, albeit several years after the stuff is considered clever or hi-tech. Here’s hoping that having 7304 different layouts on the site, as we have now, will discourage the urge to “start over completely” every couple of months. If not, you’ll know as soon as we do.

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