By: Tony Huey
Many years ago, the year 2000 to be exact, I entered high school at Inlet Grove High School in Riviera Beach, Florida. They had a magnet program, with many trades, and just a year prior they had visited my middle school to tell us about the opportunity of going to a school which is done all on computers, completed at your own pace in three years, and has classes specifically to build skills for a trade you are interested in. These trades included automotive, nursing, networking, and computers. To be able to graduate in three years and have enough experience to work in computers sounded amazing to me! Being solely on computers was a huge draw, and at the time (like most high school kids) I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do for my career. If I couldn’t be a professional baseball player, I thought computers would be a great place to start.
At Inlet Grove, I was joined by one of my middle school friends, who would become one of my best friends, and would make my time at the school much easier! Of course, I made new friends as well, one being my friend Derek, who introduced me to a thing called e-wrestling. I don’t know if it’s still around today, but at the time, it was an online community of people who enjoyed writing and wrestling. While I was past the prime of my wrestling interest, it had a competitive allure that drew me in. Essentially you created your own wrestling character, and each week you would be pitted against another character for your wrestling match. During the week, you would write stories or roleplays, aka promos or promotions. At the end of the week, leaders in the wrestling federation would decide who wrote the best, most entertaining promotions, and the winners would then win their wrestling match. That wasn’t all. In written form, the episode or card results were released, and you would have the opportunity to read through the entire card of matches to reveal the winners. These were very detailed and read like a story where you could see the wrestling matches playing in your head. It was actually very fun for me, and it helped me with my reading and writing skills.
Derek, who had introduced me to this online sport (so to speak), also introduced me to web design. His character had his own website, along with a webpage layout used for all his character’s promotions. I thought this was awesome, and not too long into my time of e-wrestling, Derek helped me build a web page for my character’s promotions. I used a free web hosting platform, and started with the basics of html, writing the code using Notepad in Windows. At first, Derek gave me a basic html layout with the head, body, and some html codes to manipulate the font to one that I liked. He then explained what the different codes meant, and within days, I was looking at the code and scouring the internet for ways to change fonts, headers, and other things on my page layout. Next thing you know I had picked up the html language and was almost proficient enough to build my own website.
Self-taught, I really had no clue where to start, but I knew I wanted to create a website for my character, so I started digging deeper into web design websites, searching for the codes I needed to achieve the desired layout. Here I would learn how to create frames – you know the old school web sites with a navigation frame on the left side of the screen, a banner in the top area of the website, and then content in the large scrolling frame. I also would learn how to create tables, to manipulate where content showed up on the website or each web page. Nearly a week later, I was up and running, and my wrestling character was coming to life via his own web site. Here you could read his biography, all his roleplays, visit links to his matches, and of course, view all his accolades and championship titles he won.
After 1 year at Inlet Grove High School, I decided it was best for me to move on, and I transferred to William T. Dwyer High School. The awesome thing about Dwyer was, they offered web design classes here. I learned a little bit and got exposure to some new programs, but ultimately, I realized these classes were too easy for me, and my skills were more advanced. By the time I got to college, I enrolled and started pursuing a web design and graphic design degree. This was cool! While the first few classes were remedial to me. I was able to learn the ins and outs of using programs like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator and many more. I was also learning programs which allowed me to create video and do special effects, like you’d see in movies or commercials. It was amazing!
Eventually, I started building websites for a little side income and was employed by my friend’s father to build a website for his tennis management company, Ahearn Tennis Management Group, which managed upscale tennis clubs throughout the Northeast. For this, I simply used all the knowledge I had gained from my time in high school, plus some from college, and I was able to produce a great product at a reasonable cost. It was a win-win, and the experience would eventually lead to a job opportunity working full-time for his new tennis club in Las Vegas. Ultimately, I graduated from Florida State University with a Business Management degree and my last web design project that was released to the public was a website for The International Tennis Centre, Las Vegas.
Fast forward to late 2019 early 2020, Truffletopia had land, a company name, was in the process of getting a logo created, and was on the verge of bringing in the first batch of fresh truffles from Italy. We had our web domain purchased, so all we needed was a web site. Since I was so experienced in my professional web design endeavors (kidding), I undertook this project. Where do I start? Notepad? Is HTML still the main coding language? I had so much to learn, again.
When I finally set some time aside, I logged into our web hosting service to find they had a very user-friendly program integrated to their website which allowed you to almost drag and drop pictures into the layout of your choice. I felt like a professional web designer again (just joking again). I was far from it. However, I did learn that web design had come a long way, from the days of writing pages and pages of code, constantly hitting refresh on your web browser to ensure everything appeared as it was supposed to. The program was so easy, I don’t think it had a place to view and edit the coding. It was made so anyone could build a page or site. Perfect!
One thing led to another, and we decided our long-term needs would not be met through this platform, so we moved to another hosting service, and guess what? It was just as easy. They had multiple layouts to choose from, an easy-to-use, web-based program, and better yet, you could access the coding to customize the website yourself. It was the best of all worlds. I was now able to have the ease of use, not spending weeks upon weeks on coding for the general layout of the website. However, I was now able to customize details to make our website have a more intuitive feel and experience, which you would expect while browsing the internet or shopping online.
Long story short, web design tools and programs have come a long way! Even though I’ve had countless nights where I am trying to update small details and perfect the coding on our website, web design itself has become something that I feel most people can do, and based on the needs, it may be even easier than you think. The drag and drop tools, premade layouts, and apps available are far more advanced than the coding and programs I used 20 years ago. Plus, when you need to learn how to do something, to get a desired feature or look, you can usually find a solution on the internet, but user beware, this is where the web design training, coding, and experience come into play.