There is nothing quite like facing a year-by-year, moment-to-moment mirror of who you used to be and what you used to stand for and how you chose to release your aesthetic on the world.
The Interet Archive’s Wayback Machine is a living testimony to the mist of your past and with its bony, pointed finger you are shown What Used To Be and how Ye Shall Discovereth The Truth of Who Ye Are and the horrors of where you’ve been.
Okay, maybe I’m being melodramatic, but if you’ve had a website domain for any amount of time you can travel back in living history via the Wayback Machine and see what you did and maybe even wonder what were you thinking.
Some of the archived domain pages on the Wayback Machine don’t load and sometimes text characters and images are unavailable. The archive still creates an amazing snapshot in time.
November 27, 1996
Let’s start our journey back with my Boles.com website as our exemplar while we “stroll through the years” of my design for that site. Since Boles.com is my main site I have always wanted it to be clean and really fast. I never cared about animation or Flash or any other goo-gahs to make a site jump and sparkle.
“Internet Insider” became “GO INSIDE Magazine” and “Boles: The Mag” was also folded into GO INSIDE Mag. I liked the text link for my “Resume” because it took you to a text page while everyone else at that time was posting Resumes-As-Images. You clicked on the metered stamp to send me email.
I had a sponsored hosting deal with Earthlink and their web servers were quick and super-well connected to the world, which, at that time, was incredibly unique and expensive.
January 30, 1998 Next I decided to abandon my favorite white background for a blue image. I also “internetted” my signature in a messy way so it couldn’t be used as my “real” signature. I was trying to brand my domain with my name.
I had/have sloppy handwriting so that “Signature-As-Brand Signature” lasted less than three weeks because no one could read what I wrote. A good friend asked me, “Why did you draw a mountain at the top of your page?” When I told him that was my “Internet Sig” he just stared at me without hiding his pity.
I created that signature on a Wacom tablet and saved the “signature” as an image and then coded it into my HTML file. I then chose to text link my pages instead of image-linking them because, at that time, people were still using animated GIFs and other silly singsong things that brayed for attention.
I wanted that site to be read on any browser be it Internet Explorer, Mosaic or Netscape. I wasn’t interested in whiz. I only wanted bang. My sponsored hosting deal with Earthlink expired and I moved over to SimpleNet for my next sponsored hosting relationship.
June 17, 2000This is my “White Album” design period. I love a white background. I love text. I’m not big on images yet. I like the plainspoken and the simple-clean.
You can’t argue with a white background on the web as a design choice because our minds are hard-coded to learn hardcopy things on a page with a white background.
September 26, 2002 Now I enter my “White Typewriter” period. There are some images here that are missing from the archive page but you can get a pretty clear idea of the aesthetic I was trying to promote. I decided to rebel a bit here by creating a “text” site with “typewriter font images” so you’d wait for the images to load to find a page that turned out to be typewritten.
I bought a bunch of old typewriter fonts and I called this design my “Retro Web” because people were using movies and flashing things that made sounds and begged for you attention and I thought it was funny to wait for the page to load only to have “text images” replacing plain text. I use some of those fonts today. The font for the “Boxes” link is the original “Urban Semiotic” logo you used to see around here an on my advertising banners.
May 2, 2003
Here is the first appearance of “Me as Mr. Green.” I love that image. It used to be my Avatar here before I created my AdVatar.
Using the huge Mr. Green image encouraged me to change my hotlinks to green.
April 12, 2004
I wish all the images loaded for this archived page but I guess they were not saved. This design was my first movement away from all text to the opposite: All Iconic. This was the first rumbling of a Semiotic Aesthetic. There were no text links on that page. I had only images loading.
The text you see on the archived page are the ALT tags for the images and I’m glad I wrote them because they at least tell you now, years later, what images were marked for loading there. I decided to make my iconic Boles.com Entrepôt into Boles University so the plain and simple Mr. Clean Green look could return to Boles.com.
I added some text description to the Boles University brand icons for my sites because, I discovered, Google likes pages with text on them and not just images or hotlinks. Adding a bit of descriptive text to the iconic logos helped get a better index match and search return procedure on all the Search Engines. Remember:
Text, Not Design, Rules The Web!
February 13, 2005
Here is my “Image Cross” design. I like the use of pinwheel text links rotating around Mr. Green. Starting this Urban Semiotic blog starring Mr. Green is the only thing that removed the me there to the me here.
Today – September 13, 2006
This is Boles.com today as viewed from any web browser. The pinwheel links are still there with some descriptive text added — remember, Google loves text and not just links and images! — and I even used the “text as image” design idea from years ago to brand my name as a brand name.
Just last week I inserted the giant and generally obnoxious “Boles Stuff” logo just because I liked the color and how it turned out design-wise and how it gives a little bit of a visual punch to what can quickly pass for a too-plain page to younger eyes. The other images on the page are secrets to my INTJ personality type.
If you know the personality, you understand the Semiotic Memes. I also retired my sponsored web hosting deals because I learned if you pay your own way you may go your own way and not worry about shilling
— either silently or publicly or iconically — for any company that is doing you a favor.
There’s no such thing as a free ride and that kind of sponsored shilling loses you favor in the marketplace of unfettered ideas.
November 2, 1996 The Wayback Machine is addictive. I decided to check out a few of my other, older, domains to see how they held up in the machine of timed archives. That want led me to one domain I “let go” years ago.
I didn’t think I needed that domain any longer but it was a fine domain name, it had resonance within me and beyond me, but I thought Boles.com would fulfill all my needs. It is difficult to use the Wayback Machine and find this silly page I created Way Back in 1996 celebrating Janna’s Pepsi Collection and realize the rest of the site pages are lost to the ether.
The entire domain was a send-up of the current web design back then where buttonized images were big along with blinking text and lots of huge images and logos and scrolling things in boxes that you would load several times on the same page to give unity and unison-in-action to your pages. I love that punky picture of Janna acting tough back in Iowa before she learned the real meaning of tough on the Mean Streets of New York City.
It is painful to page through the archive and see how my domain changed hands over the years and withered and was ruined by ugly design attempts and how now it’s basically dead and gone… but still taken. If you want to feel the sting of a decision made in haste, reserve a seat in the Wayback Machine, and don’t blame me when you yelp with yearning.
April 3, 1997
Here is one of the many archived Wayback Machine homepages for GO INSIDE Magazine from 1997! You will immediately notice not one thing has changed in the design since its inception on the web. Not. One. Thing.
I wanted that magazine to be nimble and to load quickly. I used the brand-new Tahoma font as our base font when everyone else was still using Times Roman. I wanted the design to be easy for new writers to master and I wanted the site easy to edit on-the-go. I have had many people offer to re-make the site for me over the years.
I have always declined. I like the cleanliness of the magazine’s look and feel. I have time and millions of readers on my side as a continued and successful proof-of-concept. There is great comfort in maintaining predictability in a philosophy of work, publishing and design.
April 1, 1992
Finally, here’s a quick look back at one of the many homepages for The United Stage from the Wayback archives. The site used to be called “The United Stage of America” because I liked the play on “United Stage of America” and “United States of America.”
I realized on the web you are more international than you are local, so I shortened the name to just “United Stage.” That is a better match all around because it twins the domain name.
I wanted to preserve the red, white and blue design inspiration in the “text as image” links and that design philosophy continues to this day on UnitedStage.com — but with some updated graphics and a keener logo.
I think all of these website designs are interrelated on the levels of spirit and gumption. They all speak in the same aesthetic voice. I couldn’t find any sort of bummer design in the Wayback Archives though many of the archive pages would not load for me and instead returned a database error.
I am pleased I now have a third party source that will vouch for me when I can no longer speak; with its bony, pointed finger emerging from the mist, the Internet Archives will reach out and forever confirm: “He was here then.”