From little acorns…
Safe Haven was first created by me (Kaz) in March 2000. I decided to build the site as part of my own personal healing process – it would be good for me to work on, and if I could help a few others along the way, that would be great.
I started the site off at Yahoo Geocities, using their PageBuilder editor, which was a simple drag and drop operation. Within a couple of months, though, I was frustrated by the limitations of the editor, so I decided to see if I could learn HTML and code the site myself.
I bought myself a book on HTML (Learn HTML in a Weekend by Steven E. Callihan) and sat down and started to work. It was certainly a trial and error process at first but within a couple of months I was starting to find hand-coding much easier. To this day I code purely in Notepad, without an editor – I find it generally faster and more satisfying.
The site begain to grow more popular and carry more material, and by the end of 2000, we had reached 4,000 visitors – about 400 times as many as I ever expected!
It was around this time that Patrick and I first became a couple, and we decided that we would work material for the site together, with the long-term aim of making it a full, accessible and worthwhile resource centre for survivors and loved-ones of survivors.
By the beginning of 2001, I was becoming tired of the very “personal” look of the site and I decided we had to have a new, more professional image. I began working on some ideas. In the meantime, the first incarnation of the Safe Haven Awards was created, and rated 2.0 by Award Sites!
In June 2001, the new look was unveiled, along with a move from Geocities to 50megs, due to wanting more space. We also created our own message board, at that time hosted on EZBoard.
September saw us buy our own domain name and move the site to a new host. It was around this time that I first started seriously applying for website awards for Safe Haven, for various reasons, but mainly because I realized very quickly that it was one of the best ways to get constructive critiques from knowledgable people. Within a couple of months, I had become tired of the new layout – updates were frankly a pain, with one tiny change causing me to have to update anything up to 300 pages – and I wanted to change the design again.
Over the holiday and new year of 2002 I was working away on a framed site, with again a more professional design, and with the aim of getting the whole site validated for HTML at W3C.org and also Bobby Approved. It took me several months, but finally in early February the new design was unveiled.
However, I quickly realized the terrible truth – frames are a pain! I became frustrated with the limitations and the limited support for frames. Cross-browser compatibility was a pain and it seemed many people harboured a dislike of them. Once more I went back to the drawing board…
At this point I was out of ideas for the site – I had no conception of what I wanted the design to be. I started playing around with new ideas for the awards section (by this time rated 3.5 at Award Sites!), designing new graphics and really getting to grips properly with CSS for the first time. The new design was unveiled on June 1st, 2002, to general all-round approval. I now had some ideas for the main site – time to put them into practise!
I knew that I wanted the site to be easy to use, simple to understand, attractive, fast-loading, validated, and easy to update. I started off with a similar design to the awards section – a top banner with menu, side panel and main page. I played around with lots of colours, finally settling on a complementary scheme which seemed to be the most friendly and welcoming I could make. I decided I would try to control the graphics with CSS so that I could change them easily. I also decided on using SSI (server side includes) so that updates would not become the pain that they were in the previous non-framed version.
This led me to having to examine our hosting options, since our current host did not have any CGI or ASP capabilities. I also wanted to increase the traffic allowance and start an onsite message board rather than being held hostage to the increasingly-annoying pop-ups of our free board!
A great deal of headaches later, and following some major problems with both registrar and first-choice host, we settled on a UK company, 1&1 Hosting who thankfully managed to sort out all the problems, giving excellent service and support at a very reasonable price.UPDATE 2011 – 1&1 are idiots and I do NOT recommend them! Instead I suggest Hostgator – and you can use the coupon SAFEHAVENUK to get a discount of $9.94 on your first payment.
So here we are in July 2002 with a new design once more… anyone want to place a bet on how long until I get fed up with this one?
So… updated in 2012, I guess a design that lasts 10 years has staying power! We are now running on the WordPress platform which makes updates a walk in the park. I hope this will also make the site more interactive with comment functionality, etc. I am currently working on a way of opening up the site so that anyone can contribute articles, links, poetry, etc.