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Dusting off Skeletons

April 19, 2004

There’s nothing so tragically interesting as somebody else’s train wreck. Cameron Moll asks, “how did you start out?

Hey, we’ve all got skeletons. Time to pull ‘em out! I present to you, not the first, but one of the first web sites I did for actual money, back in late 1998 (through early 1999): AESP.

It never went live, though I collected a cheque. Comments are open, flood me with your precious eyesores.

Reader Comments

Mike says:
April 19, 11h

Uh oh, here it is — Upstate Office Equipment,

Fun job… small company… small office… hot secretaries ;)

Micah says:
April 19, 11h

There she is.

I was about 13 when I did that one. I made an ungodly amount of money off it too ($200)! I actually met Toivi Blatt. He said that if I needed any equipment (I think there was talk of a camera or something) that he could probably get some from his friend Steven Spielberg.

April 19, 11h - first full website for pay, launched 2 months ago. - first sort of real pet project, needs a redesign - current work

April 19, 11h

1997! And we got an award from the bavarian school minister!

mie says:
April 19, 11h

Oh, you get paid for this stuff?

April 19, 11h

August 2001, the first site I was ever paid for; where “paid” means “was given beer” … and considering it was a charity project, I was probably lucky to get the beer. Still not sure why I got involved in a church-related charity project; I’m not at all religious.

Note gratuitous use of pirate-version Dreamweaver… those were the days.

Horrible stuff.

snafu says:
April 19, 11h

First site i ever did for money:

I did it for $400 with one other guy, i thought i was ripping them off….

Joseph says:
April 19, 11h

Never been paid to do a web site, but this was my first on-line presence, circa 1999:

There was brief prior iteration, in a ghastly combination of brown and bright green, but it is sadly no longer extant.

Twyst says:
April 20, 01h

I think I can offer up the single most fearsome first website EVER.

My 1997 web coding skills make small children cry. But that was my VERY first website. Coded through a unix terminal, and had to email the images in.

I’m very glad my current skills are much, much better, thanks to sites like this one.

Neil T. says:
April 20, 01h

Dave, compared to some sites out there, that is a work of art. Admittedly it pales in comparison to here and your work on CSS Zen Garden but it could be much worse. is probably the oldest surviving relic of my old design skills. It does pay passing resemblence to which is what my own site was using until earlier this year, but whereas I’m now using XHTML and CSS, back then I was using, well, anything really - CSS, tables, frames…

April 20, 01h

I, along with a hideously tallented graphic artist put together My first commerical dabblings with PHP and data driven websites. It was all tables and basic css back then, but nice to see it still renders fine :-)

krf says:
April 20, 01h

“At least if you can look back and know that you’ve become much better, its a sign of growth.”


We’re making progress in standards, design tools, browsers (mostly) and other viewing hardware. I’m grateful for sites like Dave’s that can help show new ways of executing the concept. The online industry has grown enormously, but is still in its youth.

Funny to see the old stuff in the “wayback machine”. Even though my first works sreamed, “amateur”, the “superstars” weren’t too far behind.

April 20, 02h

I can’t find the CD, but the internet archive has it:
FrontPage in all its glory ;-)

pea says:
April 20, 02h

please. these are all award winning compared to my first site. shoot. it wasn’t even a full site. it was two pages. but did that stop me from sending the URL to everybody i know? of course not.

anyway. i’m just going to say one more thing: geocities. ‘nuff said.

April 20, 04h

My first try with Frontpage for my first band ano 2001. Scroll down and klick on my hand

Ben says:
April 20, 04h

I’m redesigning my blog right now; using strict XHTML and pure CSS. Many, many hacks just to make it work for IE.

My friend’s friend is hosting a server on his own PC (this guy is a high school web prodigy) so I’m moving back to b2 soon. Tabulas has just become crowded.

Anyway, back when I liked Linkin Park, a nu metal group, (I know, they’re gross), I made a site for a music project. To this day, I regret it. It makes me want to puke.

I didn’t have Photoshop back then, so I was stuck with print screening images and saving them as .gif or .jpg files in Paint. I thought I was so skilled.

It’s not ‘Moz compatible at the top, I used marquees, and the worst part is: I used frames. Frames!

However, it was my first try with CSS, though not externally linked.

Looking back, I thought IE was the greatest thing in the world.

It’s revolting.

April 20, 05h

Great subject! It made me feel all nostalgic and I went to go look up my very first website, begun in my freshman year of college (1994-95). It’s really retro, what with the fancy graphical horizontal rules and the tiled background grabbed from some old background image repository.

And look at that source code! It’s all semantic and clean! Hehe. And actually, for how dated it is (9 years!), it doesn’t look half bad. Ah, the memories!

Ian Firth says:
April 20, 05h

Remember those “- Your browser should be this wide - ” things ?

1996. Quite a few games back then that I never finished… :(

April 20, 05h

Dave, your old designs are nothing to complain about, honestly there are companies I know who develop much worse than that after 10 years of business.

I scream when I look at the mess of code that is my old design for (my seond commision). Luckily I’m building a nice new clean CSS and XML one.

Also definetly needs work (that was my first).

April 20, 05h

First paid site, in all its FrontPage glory (still online and unchanged):

Jay says:
April 20, 05h

Related story of an eye sore, though I claim no responsibility for this one: A potential client wanted a new site for a club/roadhouse in Topeka. I under quoted and still they rejected my proposal. Turns out they didn’t want to spend more than $100 US for a website. What they got was this:

Ethan says:
April 20, 05h

First commercial site? Lessee…ah, here’s the little abomination:

Marvel at my ninja-like application of gratuitous drop shadows. View source, and be blinded: you have been warned.

Alexander says:
April 20, 06h

Hello, this is one of my firstīs for money:

powered by Typo3

April 20, 06h

For money, you mean the kind that they accept at stores and the bank? ummm…
(As I hide my face in shame)

Designed in late 2001 and live in early 2002

April 20, 07h

Never mind the FP MS tagsoup. I really enjoy how you thoughtfully provided the blind websurfer with the photo description “Happy kids wearing short-stuff childrens clothes, tights, sweatshirts and tracksuits.”


April 20, 07h

I think the first site I did for money (as an employee) was an intranet, and wouldn’t be much to show anyways, since it was back before you could even set a background image on a page. I remember advocating people install Netscape 0.96 beta, because it had all sorts of new things that Mosaic didn’t have.

April 20, 07h

Unfortunately, I don’t have the files for the first paid Web site I did…. But I do still have the files for the first non-profit site I did (which was also the first other than my own):

Frames, “best viewed with Netscape 3”, font tags; yup, it’s all there in the glory days of 1997. It was even so old that I was hosting their site through mine.

Russ says:
April 20, 07h

First site I ever did for money was
it was a sql data drivin site….all crash course


Alex says:
April 20, 07h

I haven’t done anything for money yet, but my first site can be found here:

I didn’t even know about CSS.

April 20, 07h

I’ll tell ya, I had reservations about making that post – it’s almost too painful to show off your first website. But I’m gettin’ a good chuckle out of all these “firsts.”

Lea says:
April 20, 08h

I’m about to start my first for-pay web project (I’m not counting my in-house job as a real one since the complete re-design is still in planning stages, and the other pages I’ve done have been one-shots…) so I can’t really say much. But I will say this:

My first ever website, like, ever… was hosted on Geocities. And it was an anime fan page with black background, large text, and giant 200KB images during the 28.8 modem era….

The shame! THE SHAME!… I fear thee. *continues sweeping skeletons into the closet*

Luke Redpath says:
April 20, 08h

Oh the embarrasment.

radu says:
April 20, 08h

this was my first time for money (year 1999):

the code is a bit changed, somebody else is maintaining the site now, but it’s still the same mess.

David says:
April 20, 08h

that would be

The design only went up a few days ago, but it’s been waiting 18 months for a WDA grant… Needless to add it’s horribly boring and the customer actually likes it. *sighs*

Bryan says:
April 20, 08h

There is a scary similarity among all of these, most of them are .orgs or .edu :)

Actually, if you want to see one of my first sites ever to be put online, check out

I don’t own it anymore, and the guy who bought it from me hasn’t done jack sh*t to it for the last 2 years, hence why it has missing information, missing images, etc.. Pretty sad, but it was a decent site for me. Still gets about 5,000 ppl a week though.

Phil Robinson says:
April 20, 08h

Here’s mine – – complete with dropshadows, gradients, a button bar, and even a Netscape Now! button. Sheesh.

The sad thing is that it remained largely unchanged until just recently.

dan says:
April 20, 09h

I like this post.

You know the funny thing is when I sit with a client I ask them to send me links to site that they like. Just to get an idea of what their expectations are.

1. I get a lot of site that look like these first sites.

2. I get a lot of Flash sites.

It’s kinda funny as designers and a 24/7 web surfer, whether you can do it or not, you get a pretty good idea of what is a good site within seconds of looking at it (except when it’s yours). But most people, can’t tell the difference. I guess time will fix this. It’s like a budget commercial on television, everyone knows what those look like, but the web is still a mistery for lots.

April 20, 09h

You guys are all amazing. I started off on a free server at tripod, not knowing any html at all circa 1997. (oh the good old days when you could only get 200k of free space and the common browser was Netscape Navigator 3). I don’t have a copy of it, either does tripod, but the archives do:

Take that to my next skeleton at:

And then to where I’m at now:

That’s called progress. Thanks to Dave, ALA, and lots of other invaluable resources.

Miriam says:
April 20, 09h

First site ever: and

The look isn’t the worst thing ever but I made it with Netscape Composer in 1998 so the code is quite regrettable. Payment = “on the list” forever.

Jessica says:
April 20, 09h

*Phew* Sure glad I’m not the only one. My first “for pay” job is still up & running unchanged (to my demise - sure glad I changed my biz name now!). This project started in 1998, went live in 1999 & the last update was 2000.
I sure have learned a LOT since then! Thank goodness for CSS!!

Derek says:
April 20, 09h

It was hand-coded in 1998, but there were frames and FONT tags galore, of course. It’s only in the Internet Archive now, and some of the images are broken, but you’ll get the idea:

Here’s an earlier version I worked on, but only a little:

More frames! With scroll bars! And a scrolling marquee in the status bar! Optimized for Netscape 3!

I also preserved a copy of my own site from that same era:

April 20, 10h

my first site was in 1999 for . funny enough, i got a new client from the link on that site about 6 months ago.

the zoom site is hideous but as you said, its nice to keep track of your progress.

chris says:
April 20, 11h

A personal site from early 1996: Created when I was at university. A critique of various astrophysical publications created by kooks. Design was typical of it’s time - graphical rules, ritual abuse of background images, and copyright violations. Looked great in Netscape 2.

krf says:
April 20, 11h

Some of these sites remind me of looking at fashion during the 70’s and 80’s. It was cool for its time, but all one can do now is laugh and hope we never return.

What’s really sad is that sites without design, though, clarity, good writing and other meaningful content are still coming online today.

Will we look back in another 6-7 years and say the same thing? Only time can tell. Most of my “old” sites have gone the way of the acquisition, merger or other company sweep.

Susanna says:
April 20, 11h

“Will we look back in another 6-7 years and say the same thing?”

I’m sure of it, krf. We’ll say, “Why did we use type so tiny that no one could read it?” and “I remember when pixellated wallpaper was cool!” And maybe we’ll say, “I’d forgotten about all those different banner ad shapes we had to accommodate.”

Ryan says:
April 20, 12h

First one in 2001. Java heavy :(

April 20, 12h

Although my websites still suck, you can see some really crappy ones on my about page. The first one I ever made is my favorite. It was for a philosophy class. I can’t tell from this computer, but I think the sounds still work.

April 20, 12h

I’ve deleted my first attempts. Well, technically, I sold the computer they were all stored on. But let’s just say that your skeleton kicks my skeleton’s butt.

Somewhat related, I stumbled on a screenshot of a pre-Mezzoblue personal site of yours, which bears striking resemblance to your Garden design, Coastal Breeze. Indeed, many of the same graphics are used.

Of course, not to say that the screenshot was of a bad design; it was the thinking about older works that brought it to mind.

Eric says:
April 20, 12h

Here is one I last updated in 1998, but I think I designed it in 1997 and originally coded in Word 97 HTML view;

It’s not even valid HTML 3.2!

bucky says:
April 20, 12h

At least if you can look back and know that you’ve become much better, its a sign of growth. Some people stagnate and never try to get better; they don’t experiment and try new styles or techniques. And those people seem to still make a living. Crazy.

Tombo says:
April 21, 01h

I made a few sites using geocities pagebuilder back in ‘97/’98, unfortunately, about a week after making the page, I’d forget the login and the URL, and never be able to even view the page again.

Those were the days…sniff.

Seriously tho’ - I’m only an amateur really, but my first ever paid job in wd made me 2,500 GBP. That was in Jan of this year. I even got them to pay my tax and NI.

dennis says:
April 21, 05h

No live sites online, but some screenshots from 1996-98 here:

April 21, 05h

Even though I’ve been doing webdesign / development for quite a while now, I only build my first freelance website 6 months ago:

Guess I am a tad slow :p

Will Pate says:
April 21, 07h

My first commercial design wasn’t all that bad:

April 21, 08h

Ah, the nostalgia… I have a couple of my original projects backed up somewhere from around 1996. But I did manage to find my first paid project from 1999:

Yup, I used drop shadows! but looking at it now, I’m surprised I was using CSS! How’s that for trendsetting. :)

April 22, 01h

Did this site originally in 1996. 1997 was the last time I touched it. Seem like only yesterday. They haven’t updated (the design) to this date. Note the Netscape 3 bug on the bottom of the home page.

Hans says:
April 22, 05h

First time I was spotted online: In the year 2001…

I can’t believe that Netscape is still hosting it. :)

Chris says:
April 22, 05h

Even though the copyright says 2003 this was completed nearly 2 years ago. Client never contacted me to finish the “Team Gately” page(s). Oh the horror!!
Not that what I’m doing now is all that great…

Brian McAllister says:
April 22, 07h

If there was a prize for BAD I must surely have won it with this little joy..

100% javascript (dynapi).. there’s not an html tag in sight between the body tags as everything is created with document dot write’s.. it rolled in at 80k just for the js includes alone and nothing appeared on screen until every last one of the images were preloaded; but it does’nt stop there folks, I even embedded a css style declaration within the body tags… Colonel Kurtz could’nt have said it more precisely - “the horror, the horror, the horror”..

Unfortunately, it just does’nt load when read from the web archive but looking at the 20k javascript block resident between the head tags is worth the visit alone..

I shall now turn off the computer and leave the office in shame..

mediumstairs says:
April 23, 01h

well…which came first? who knows

…learning so much

Mike says:
April 23, 01h

I dare not give any of my current projects, but I did this one as part of my job about 3 years ago. Someone has moved some folders around and screwed it up since I left, but here it is. Please note that I was not hired as a webmaster per se, but enough defending it…

PS It doesn’t seem to work with Mozilla…. :)

David B says:
April 23, 04h

Great subject… and some great (or should that be dire) sites on display.

My first commercial web-site never even made it onto the internet. I spent 9 months working as a web designer for a media agency who decided they needed to get in on the “portal thing”. Two weeks before the site was due to go live, the project was canceled and the team dispersed to other departments. 9 MONTHS down the drain!!!

Needless to say, I walked out on them and got my current job working for a UK University. You can see wht I did in that job with our site archive. I came in and did verion 2.0 onwards:

Andy Smith says:
April 23, 05h

This is the first site I ever really finished, possibly due to the fact that I was being payed, back in 2002. To think it took me months!

Hand coded very, very badly and complete with excessive table use. I did make a feeble attempt to use css, although missed the point somewhat, using otherwise empty font tags all over the place containing class attributes.

April 23, 08h

Wow, this brings it all back.

My first two commercial sites:

Not sure which went live first. Both done in Frontpage, I believe, back in 1998. Like, *sooo* last century.

Dan says:
April 23, 10h

My only real site:

There’s no design there to speak of, but it is functional. Any volunteers to “make it pretty”? :)

Dan Rubin says:
April 23, 12h

I too have joined in the fray, though not with my first web site (I still can’t find those files from my first paid job, circa 1998, but I will…) – my first Flash project, which was also one of my early projects for the web, is just as interesting, and almost as old. Aw heck, just read about it on SB:

cam c. says:
April 25, 11h

The first site I ever did for money was Jeep Jamboree Canada in 1995(!)… I think it’s been down for a good 7-8 years now, and I’m glad I don’t have a backup copy… :)

I did that site before I even think the term “web designer” had been coined… I was a university Art & Design student who’d switched degrees from Computing Science… talk about lucky… I sometimes wonder why I’m not a millionaire now. :)

Anyway, I took a few years’ break from the web industry (oh, right, that’s why I’m not rich) and went to Japan… I eventually got back into the biz there, and the first site I ever did for money in Japan is still online, more or less in one piece! It even has some CSS (the stylesheet is like ten lines long). (make sure you have Japanese installed if you’re looking….)

April 26, 12h

My first two sites that I was paid for were done in 1993 and 1994, respectively (which might make them the oldest sites on this listing). Unfortunately, I don’t have them backed up and things have changed since then (who would’ve thought?).

My first site that I’ve been able to find is from 1996. It was a site for the Smithsonian Institution and a research project. I’ve got the stories behind all of these and a link to the Smithsonian project on my blog: so you can go check them out.