It is a strange thing to see this website finally existing before me. The design first came to me—the background, at least—in the time of 2012. Then it was something basic, the mockup a rudimentary Flash creation, with individually site-mapped pages and a colourful array of side-buttons.
That was also the year I began to blog, and over time came to realise that a website was much more than manually-updated content—one needed something in which to write and publish articles, without having to re-arrange the layout (and this dives into the mechanics of the way a website displays, from the “back-end”).
As an artist, I was far more familiar with front-end design, and while I could create the above using something like Dreamweaver or Adobe Flash, it would be a sad thing. In my eyes, form and function are intertwined, and when one unbalances the other, beauty is lost.
And so it came to be that I put the creation of this website off, all the while honing my ideas and design, even as the realms of my world expanded. I don’t remember where it was that the tree and flower became one in the form of a cherry blossom, but it was a vision remained; lingering on through the years. The design resurfaced again in late 2015, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I finally began taking steps towards its creation…
My choice made, the first step I took was buying Adobe Dreamweaver’s “Classroom in a Book”. This I did to better understand the technical aspects of web design and development, and it was invaluable to me in terms of what I learned. Through it I came to realise that Dreamweaver was not what I was looking for—not with my skills, and the way I desired to allocate my time.
In the end, I decided it would be better if I used an existing content-management-system (WordPress.org), rather than become a web-developer. Compiling the sketches I had made, I chose the closest theme I could find to my own design (Nisarg by Falguni Desai), studied the way my new website worked, and ran with what I had.
I spent about a two weeks painting the background image (my guess is around 32 hours of actual painting time), all the while (beta) testing how it displayed. I did this on an offline server I had set up through the program MAMP, allowing me to make all of my development changes locally before I took the website live. It’s especially useful now, as I can still test any new features in a safe environment before making them public.
I developed the website iteratively, learning as I went. I’d edit what was immediately available to me, and then with greater understanding move forwards. Eventually I found myself not only working on CSS (which is wonderfully user-friendly), but PHP as well—I began to go down to the bones of the website itself, and change its very structure in order to create further customisations. For this, the internet is a marvellous thing; if you have only the desire, and the patience, then the information is there for you to grasp—there are many other people who have walked where you will, and are willing to share what they have learned in the process.
Once that was done, I installed some very useful plug-ins (one of which insults my writing style 😉 ), and turned to the content of the website itself. I did research on metadata and site-indexing, and how I could best implement these in balance with my artistic integrity and values. In my defence, I have had a fair bit of experience in web design and their content. I know the basic structure of websites, the purpose of what they contain, what I should include and omit, what I’m hoping to achieve, and how I can bundle these all together to reach a desired effect.
In any research you do, hold your values close to your heart. People will tell you to do one thing or do the other, but this is only what works for them, or statistically informed (by which no great works of art would ever be created). You are you, and you are unique; take what they say into consideration, but ultimately, run with what you like best. Follow your heart and make your own decisions on your instincts—in the end, you may find yourself suggesting advice to others as well.
The learning curve has been long, and I still have much to do, but right now I am in awe of what I have made. To finally see what I have dreamed of for so long, standing before me… It is a strange thing indeed.
Welcome to my world;
The Dreaming Sentinel.