Creating A Website – My Adventure with Launching NextJen Mobile

My very first website was horribly designed, did absolutely nothing, and thankfully, no longer exists. I had a lot of help with that site, I didn’t do any of the hosting things myself. I was 18, and still not sold on the technology thing as a career. I was fully invested in becoming an athletic trainer for the Detroit Red Wings, so I didn’t give it much thought. Even though it wasn’t a great site, I did learn a lot.

I’ve built a couple other half-assed attempts at sites since then, but nothing I ever actually put out on the web. I have a couple blogs (including this one) and I’ve done a lot of customizing on one of them. It’s not quite the same as building from scratch, which I enjoy, though I frequently sit and stare at a blinking cursor before at least some of it starts to just flow out of me. Google and StackOverflow are still my best friends, like just about every developer on the planet.

I’ve been so busy with other projects, work, and life in general, I just haven’t had the energy until this week. But on Monday, I finally put the black and white sketches for NextJen Mobile that I’ve had for a few months into 0s and 1s.

Looking at these sketches, I thought purple (my favorite color) would be the color scheme for the site design. But, it was hard to find a main shade that didn’t make me want to kick something. I decided to take a very scientific approach to picking my new scheme: clicking around on a color wheel until I found one that I liked. I ended up with a darker denim-ish, teal-y blue, that I really liked for my main color  (#00679B, in case you’re wondering).

Once that was done, the biggest question was, what should my logo be? I was drawing so many blanks. I had zero ideas.  Then I had one that sucked.

At least it was something though. I figured that I could get the site out there, and figure out a better logo later. Then I got really lucky when a friend of mine, Clark Rasmussen, who is way better at logo design than I am, pinged me saying that he had an idea for my logo. Once he writes up his post on the work he did with it, I’ll link to it here. Edit: He has since written about the design for this logo, and the design of the new MIRide logo here.

Way better, am I right?! Thank goodness for more talented friends. With an awesome logo, I was finally at the step of actually releasing this to the web.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve never actually done this part on my own, so I was nervous.

First thing I did was ask around at work about hosting services. One of my coworkers mentioned that a different coworker raves about After poking around a bit, I decided to move forward with them. I trust both coworkers’ judgement, they are both incredibly smart, so the choice was not difficult.

So far, I have been very pleased with them. Set up was simple, the FAQ was very helpful when I ran into problems, as well as suggestions for SFTP tools. I use WinSCP at work, but I have a mac at home, so obviously that was not an option for me. I downloaded Fugu, a free mac equivalent to only be informed by Elphaba that mac doesn’t support PowerPC apps any more, so that was not a choice for me. Transmit4 had a seven day free trial, so I gave it a shot. I was very pleased with the UI and the experience I had with them last night. (Because I had to upload new files a couple times to fix things that I may or may not have forgotten to do during the initial building… oops).

Somethings that I discovered while putting my site on the web last night:

  1. If an image is not visible on your site, but you have everything appropriately referenced, check the permissions in your public directory. In Transmit4 you can right click the file, hit ‘Get Info’, and you can edit the permissions in the resulting dialogue box. Crazily enough, the world has to have read permissions for them to be able to see the image.
  2. After pointing the domain at the correct DNS servers, my site still wasn’t serving to the world. And I couldn’t figure out why. Turned out the problem was that I was still on a free “check us out!” account, not a paid account. Once I was on a paid account, my site started working. Crazy how that works!

It has been a lot of fun to work on this site, and actually build something of my own that ends up live on the web, albeit a little anti-climactic.  Part of the “anti” being that I didn’t just have the site be magically LIVE when I pushed the files up to the server due to point #2 above. Somehow, it’s less nerve-wracking to push my own files to the web, than when I am pushing them to the LIVE servers at work. Maybe because if I screw something up on my own site, I won’t be costing my employer money in DevOps, lost sales, and what have you. At least at this point it won’t cost me any money if I screw something up!

Anyway, I have learned a lot during this experience, and I’m already thinking about how I can apply what I’ve learned to a few other projects I have in the pipes. I’m retro-ing on myself, if you will. This is one awesome adventure and I’m looking forward to the next step on the path.

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