When we started writing software, over 30 years ago, the world of computing and the internet were vastly different to what we have today. Having learnt to program 'BASIC' on Amstrad word processors, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore Amiga computers, buying and setting up my first PC was a leap of faith into an alien environment. These days very few people do not have a computer of some sort but back then, if you had a PC you were considered a geeky outcast.
A friend of mine introduced me to a programming language called Foxpro and compared with the basic languages I had written in before, this was very powerful. Bear in mind though that the internet was limited to very slow dial up connections that modern day experts take great delight in making fun of but that is all we had and we were able to do things we previously couldn't even imagine.
Foxpro opened up a whole new world and my first major project was to 'computerise' the record filing system at the hospital radio station where I volunteered. Some of the other members embraced the technology but many of them were suspicious of it. I find it amazing, when I look back, that supposedly intelligent people could not see the benefits of a computerised filing system. I half expected to see the computer smashed up, reminiscent of the results of the loom riots during the Industrial Revolution. The computer was never smashed and the filing system was eventually accepted.
I began to explore the audio capabilities of PC computers, using Foxpro. Computerised recording and playback was in its infancy at that point so we really were pushing the boundaries. It appears we were pushing too hard and the playback system I developed was rejected in favour of a 30 year old stretchy tape machine which only lasted a few months before giving up the ghost.
The irony of the story is that over 10 years later, the same hospital radio station spent a small fortune purchasing a digital playout system, it would appear that we were way ahead of our time. There was one good thing about that time though, we managed to get our fantastic domain name, studiosoft.co.uk and we continue to be proud of what we have achieved with it.
When we started out on the internet (1993), the only way to accept payments on a website was via a high street bank and setting that up was not for the faint hearted. We set up a number of web shops for clients and also designed a local buying and selling club where members could pay £1 per month or £10 per year and buy or sell their unwanted items. The website itself worked very well but there was a major hurdle to overcome, getting a bank to accept a payment of £1 per month. They were fine with the £10 per year payment but would not allow us to take such small payments as they said it would not be profitable. Even after offering 40% commission, they were still not interested.
Financial institutions love to hear about business plans, which to the unitiated, are the mythical figures which you pluck out of the sky to demonstrate to the banks the amount of profit you will make if the wind just happens to be in the right direction. Our plan of attracting a minimum of 20,000 members in the first 12 months, generating at least £200,000 was apparently not attractive enough to them and we were left high and dry with our business idea.
Of course, with hindsight, we should have pursued the matter further as an organisation called Ebay did a similar thing and don't appear to be struggling too much. They hit the same financial hurdles that we did but had access to resources outside the UK to solve the problem.
We then turned our atention to creating websites and learning to master Microsoft Frontpage which back in 1997 was just about the only way to create websites. We created websites for many businesses but felt that Microsoft Frontpage was more of a hindrance than a help so we taught ourselves how to write the code. Our websites became much faster because they didn't rely on the Frontpage resources and we could style them any we liked so they didn't just look like all the others.
We still write our own code today because just like back in the Frontpage days, the modern content management systems are huge clunky things which slow down every process and the websites they produce still all look the same. We also write our own client side and server side support software which enables us to offer services and solutions way beyond the abilities of most website design agencies.
The web designers at StudioSoft are also keen amateur photographers and are very experienced in picture editing using Adobe Photoshop so naturally we create all our own graphics rather than steal stock images off the internet and hope nobody notices. Stealing photographs off other websites is all very well but eventually you get caught out. All of the images used by our web designers are water marked and can be easily identified. We really have been around since the internet started to become popular and as technology has advanced, we have found new ways to achieve previously impossible tasks. At StudioSoft, we like to encompass new web design technologies but not at the expense of traditional functionality. Just because a job has been done a certain way for many years doesn't mean that the method cannot be changed to make the job more efficient. This has to be balanced against changing methods for the sake of it. Just because new technologies become available, it doesn't mean that they have to be used for everything. At the end of the day your website will not be judged on the technology you use but how easy it is to access and operate.
The world of technology doesn't stand still and is forever changing but not always for the better. We will continue to encompass the new technology but we will never lose sight of the of the most important aspects of website design, where load speed and accessibility take precedence over the latest technical gizmos.