This is a web story of mine

I first got connected to the Internet in the early 1990’s and was very intrigued by the way I could communicate with the world via email, bulletin boards and newsgroups. I could ask a question in a group and within hours, would receive a reply from across the world. Crazy. Heck! I even found a way to buy audio CD’s via the telnet protocol. This was also about the time the World Wide Web was the talk of the techies. I downloaded the Mosaic browser and took a look to see what the hubbub was all about and I felt that this idea would never take off. I was wrong. The WWW did get kind of popular.

My first attempt at web authoring came in the late 90’s when I made a small, ugly personal page on my ISP’s server. I used the Composer tool that was part of Netscape Navigator browser. Later on, one of the releases of Microsoft Office had a program called Frontpage. Frontpage was a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) authoring tool that is supposed to make web authoring easy for the non HTML public. I played around with this application for awhile but never on anything that I published on the web.

At the dawn of this century, a fellowship of which I’m a member, asked me to build a web site for them. (I cannot show you their site because we have a secret handshake and I am not allowed to use my work with them to promote my business.) I used Frontpage and published a very unattractive, but functional web site. My interest started here. I later upgraded my tool set to include Adobe GoLive, another WYSIWYG editor, to update the site. GoLive on each update became very web standards based so I started learning what it meant to build sites using the web standards outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium. I got books on Extensible HTML and Cascading Style Sheets and began rebuilding the site to comply with these standards. It got to the point where I no longer used GoLive for the WYSIWYG functions of the program but only for the slick way the code editor created clean markup. In my opinion, the site became quite nice.

Shortly after that I adopted another web site with this same fellowship. One of the functions of the site used the ColdFusion scripting language to access a Microsoft Access database to retrieve data and serve it up to the site visitors. I was intrigued by this magic and started to learn what I could about dynamic database driven web sites. It was all the rage at the time and I found that the most popular platforms used on the web for dynamic applications was the PHP language accessing MySQL databases. I got books on PHP and MySQL and started learning about this coolness. While on this journey of education, I discovered that many applications had been already created by coders fluent in PHP and MySQL, and were offered to the public for free using OpenSource development methods. I was able to download pre built scripts and use them for my projects.

Some of these open source projects are right out of the box, full featured, web site development platforms. Three of the most popular are WordPress Blog Tool and Publishing Platform, Joomla! Content Management System and Drupal Content Management Platform. I found that I could build, style and deploy a full featured web site in a reasonable amount of time with minimal code manipulation. This is very good for someone like me who enjoys the easy way of doing things. I rebuilt both web sites using Joomla.

In 2006, I was asked by a friend to build a web site for his new charter fishing business. I was honored that he asked and gladly built my first professional web site, ReelTime Charters. I got paid in fishing trips. Shortly after that another friend asked for a fishing site also and “Fish With Joe” became my second project. In mid 2007, Beverly Commeau needed an online shop for selling her handmade magnetic jewelry. I had been looking at another open source platform, osCommerce Online Shop, so I suggested to her that we try this solution. I built “Bev’s Pain-B-Gone” and learned a lot about the setting up of catalogs and site security. Again I worked for cheap. Since then, several friends and folks referred by friends have requested web site designs and I have built up a nice little portfolio in my spare time. I have also rebuilt some existing sites. Take a look at my Projects page for details on these adventures. I find that I learn more each time I take on and complete a site.

I now find that it is time to officially start a business that uses some of the skills that I have learned. Thus the advent of Tom Kraft Design. Catchy name, right? I work closely with my clients to produce simple, efficient, attractive web solutions using freely available open source platforms. I also teach them how to create and modify their own content, though some have chosen to pay me to update the content for them.

If you are interested in my work, take some time to review my portfolio. If you would like a site developed or an old site redesigned, contact me for an estimate.