Hello there web wanderer, I'm Nick!
I've been developing web sites since getting the internet in 1999 at the age of 15. I currently freelance, after working at an agency in Cheshire for 13 years, starting as a Junior Web Developer and ending as Assistant Technical Director, after completing an Internet Computing degree at Liverpool University.
I love engaging with other developers and look forward to the lockdown being over so I can start attending meetups in person rather than virtually. To find out what tech I like to use, see my /uses page.
In my spare time I go hiking in the country with a group of friends, completing a good jigsaw, and doing indoor skydiving each month. I'll be blogging about this in the not too distant future, and sharing some of the flying videos.
I've also recently enjoyed tackling some "CSS art" in my free time which is both challenging and enjoyable and requires a lot of patience and trial and error. See my blog post about it or check out my CodePen.
My early life in becoming passionate about web development...
My love of computers and development started earlier than getting the internet in 1999. It started with the Dragon 64 when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I'd sit there typing commands from a book and being amazed seeing what I had done running, whether it be a simple calculation, or drawing using PEN UP, PEN DOWN and MOVE commands.
When I first got a PC at the age of eleven, I installed Visual Basic and started programming. My first Visual Basic program was a lottery number generator, which sorted the numbers and stored up to ten lines for you. I even created a red cardboard case, with slot for the disk inside a yellow cardboard inset inside. Finally topped with a label for the top, the disk and a printed instruction manual.
Through some of the earlier school years I produced a PC magazine from about 4 pieces of A4 and sold them to friends for 30p. At a cost of 16p a magazine to produce (paper and photocopying), I was not going to become rich, but it was fun all the same.
During my mid-teens I was pretty much always on a computer, leaving little time for any social interactions. I was absorbed by talking to people all over the world and getting involved with projects. Such as an online game called 'Odyssey Online Classic', helping to keep it running by creating VB Winsock applications to run private servers for people to play, when the creators stopped running it for a while.
My love of the Monkey Island series of games led me to create escapefrommi.com back in 2001, a fan site for the Escape From Monkey Island game that was in the making at the time. This was written using a simple CMS I created using Perl CGI Scripts. This ran for two or three years, launch week grabbing a whopping 10,000 hits.
Around this time I met a guy called Scott Sherwood who I then set up a site called UrbanModels which provided fashion, photography and modelling news for people, as well as having a members area, where people could create an online portfolio for free and also a forum for the community to discuss things. Revenue was created using Google Adsense, which more than covered the running costs.
During university I was working on a web site for Cookies Karaoke, which used PHP and MySQL, and once complete had the "best in the industry" search tool. I'm not sure where the quote came from, but that's what I was told.
The final year project was the creation of a version of the classic game, Super Bomberman for mobile devices, written in Java. I completed most of the project over the summer holidays before the final year had ever started as I enjoyed doing it so much. The game would start up, connect to the server, and initiate a game with anyone who is queuing. Ping speeds were used for the server to try and work out more fairly, who was positioned where at the time of a bomb exploding.
It was great fun to do, and also fun watching my two dissertation assessors play each other as part of the presentation of the project, one on a Sony Ericsson K700i and the other on a Nokia N70. At the same time I was keeping everything crossed that the server didn't crash, as it was running on my PC at home, an hour of travel time away!
Before I sat my final year exams I started applying for jobs to get ahead of the rush. I didn't know ASP.NET, but learnt it to complete the technical test and get myself through the job interview, landed the job, and started there a week after finishing my final exam.
From starting at the agency, I worked on breaking down sites into HTML, and soon helped push for using CSS within the projects - layouts were all being done using tables and tags at the time. We soon started using it in all future projects.
During my time at the agency, I continued to watch what the industry was doing, learning of new technology outside of the business and bringing the knowledge to the business to utilise. It's interesting seeing how things are changing, albeit a little slower than I expected. I remember watching Google I/O in 2008, seeing all the new features coming to browsers as part of HTML5/colloquial HTML5 and thinking... wow... your browser will be the only application you'll need in the future. Twelve years later, we're still not there, but we're certainly a lot closer!
Not only did my technical experience expand hugely during my years there, but also my personal skills, I certainly grew in confidence. Enjoying engaging with clients rather than being, quite frankly, scared of being in that scenario.
The trickiest part about working at an agency had to be balancing client expectations, with what their budget would actually allow. Honesty from the start as to what can and can't be achieved with the budget the client has, is absolutely critical for a long term relationship.
One of the most satisfying parts of the job is working with developers not only to create a great end product, but also see them progress, teach them new skills, and get excited and enthusiastic about the new techniques they are using, especially those "Aha!" moments when everything slots into place.
Over the thirteen years there, it was a great experience being involved in everything from day to day programming, technically leading, project managing, engaging with clients, training developers, managing projects and interviewing, to name but a few.
Since leaving the company, I've taken some time to work freelance, before losing the contract at the end of March due to COVID-19. Since then, I've been learning as much as I can, reading, expanding my mind, and becoming super excited for the future!