A Brief History of SDS

*Originally SDS’s 500th post, I’ve since updated it*

Who doesn’t enjoy reminiscing?

SDS has been few several iterations in that time. Fortunately I’ve learnt a few things.

The first is that for a guy without a plan this hasn’t gone too badly.

Second lesson; nothing on the Internet truly goes away. This is very pleasing since I my usual love of keeping records didn’t extend to the site in it’s various guises. Fortunately there is the Wayback Machine, which takes snapshots and stores them over time.

So I was delighted to find that I could scroll back and see the different iterations of the site, from superdstuff.blogspot.com to present day. That delight quickly morphed into horror as I looked at some of the “designs” I’d previously used for the site. The site may look purty now, but there were some dark times!

I thought it would be interesting to look through the major phases of SDS from a design stand point, and try to explain not just what I was thinking at the time, but also the lessons I learned.

This is the history of Super Duper Stuff and I’m happy to share it with you.

1.0 SDS Begins

The year is 2012 and I’ve just discovered Blogger whilst looking for a free space to share my burgeoning need to review films. Back in the day I’d used MSN Spaces to hilarious affect, pining over my first love after she’d dumped me. But this would be different!
Most impressive here is the snazzy notepad style background I used. Why I thought pairing that background with a font that looked like output from a typewriter was a good match is anybody’s guess but I think it looks relatively smart, especially for my first foray into blogging. As Flickering Myth were a huge part of me starting this entire thing they got a prominent spot at the top of the page.
Looking back I’m happy with it, though I don’t know why I felt the need to defend myself straight away with ‘Just my opinion’. Perhaps I wasn’t as confident in offering up my thoughts at the point.
Lesson learnt – Don’t just think about it, do it. Maybe it will die out in time, or maybe it will become a long-time hobby. You won’t know until you try!

2.0 Building Up

Look Ma, a banner! Though through my excitement and lack of finesse resulted in the image not fitting correctly the banner. I thought I’d take some of my favourite films and place them up top to not only give the site some more personality but to show people what I’m into.
Otherwise the site took a big jump up in the amount of content and options I was trying to provide. I was scoring my reviews at the time with the top rank being ‘Super Duper’. Later on I’d abandon scores altogether as I found it very limiting.
It was around this time I created a Facebook page (which lasted a few years) which had top billing.
Lesson learnt – Give people options to move around the site and see more of your content. Images are nice but don’t go crazy. Backgrounds can add a lot to the overall feel. The light green may have been easy on the eyes but looking back it was dull.

3.0 Dark Times

This is the period I look back on with embarrassment. I’d found a place called Fiverr, a marketplace for designers. For $5 I could get a logo designed for the site. I picked someone out, gave them a few paragraphs and waited. What I got back wasn’t great but I stuck it up there anyway as I very keen to have an identity.
I should have waited.
The cached version of the site looks worse than it did at the time as some pieces are missing. Nonetheless, the site looked awful and it took me a while to realise it. It’s embarrassing to think I was pushing this onto people.
Lesson learnt – A little knowledge can be dangerous. I’d figured some things out and ran with them, before fully understanding the end result. Messy. Also, hold off if you’re not sure about something, even if you paid for it!

4.0 Steady Now

Eventually it dawned on me how unhappy I was with the site so I reverted to something much simpler. Far from perfect but I retreated back into Blogger mode after trying and failing to make the site look more like a website. I didn’t know about the big changes that were on the horizon but for now I knew this wasn’t an eyesore at least. IIRC I made the new ‘logo’ on a free website and then fitted everything around it. It would do for now.
Keeping the page narrow was a sorry attempt at making it display on mobile devices better.
Despite it being very plain this was a lot easier on the eye.
Lesson learnt – Don’t be afraid to step back to what you’re more comfortable with until you’re sure what’s going on. At the time I didn’t want to do what I thought was regressing but I’d rather a solid looking Blogger page than pretending it was something else and looking terrible.

5.0 All Change!

After three years I finally did it. I moved to WordPress, which with so many terms I didn’t understand, was horrendously nerve-wracking.
The only way I could do this was to commit. So I spent money and forced myself to sort it.
Paying a hosting company to do most of the work wasn’t that hard in the end. The most difficult part was moving the domain but soon I was looking at a blank page.
Aware of the pitfalls with logos, I revisited Fiverr with more precise instructions. The logo was a massive improvement.
Finally I could create a site and not just hammer together Blogger pages. But where to start? Fortunately WordPress is full of themes, so it was case of finding one that I liked and then tweaking the colours and layout. Pretty simple even for the uninitiated.
Three years of content was surprisingly easy to transfer over as Blogger had an export function. What was far more painful was reformatting each post to look decent on the new site!
Looking back I jumped heavily into ‘make it look like it isn’t Blogger!’. But I’d finally done it!
Lesson learnt – Jumping in at the deep end suited me as it was the impetus I needed to change things. That might not be your cup of tea so I think the main lesson here is perseverance. Keep at it and things will improve.

5.5 A Fitting Logo

Honestly, I’ve never been truly happy with the logo for the site. It was far better than anything that came before, but it didn’t feel very me.
My Brother got himself a supremely fine logo for this work on Rogue Outpost. I was jealous, so what better way to sort my own out than by going to the same guy that designed his?
Over the course of a few weeks I worked with an actual graphic design artist to create something that got to the core of Super Duper. I gave up on chasing hits a long time ago now. This site is for me, so it should reflect me. If you delve into the depths of my mind, you’d find how I see myself. That ‘me’ still has running spikes on, despite it being 12 years since I ran competitively. So for a logo to contain a sense of movement is huge.
I’m genuinely excited to see it every time. I even have stickers!
Super Duper Stuff, or SDS, finally has an identity. Me!
Lesson Learnt – You get what you pay for.

I didn’t start Super Duper Stuff with any major plan in mind. I just wanted to share my opinion, and it’s now a big part of my life. If you have the urge to share something do it. Ride the wave of interest for as long as it’s there. That’s the most important thing.

Here’s to plenty more posts and more changes!

1 Comment

  1. Ha ha, I had totally forgotten about Wayback until I read this, and it’s inspired me to maybe do something similar for my own site. It’s funny looking back at where we all started to where we are now; clunky, simplistic sites were the norm when we started, but as our mad skillz grew we became bolder, braver, more creative. I still remember my own 500th post, way back in the day. I’ve given up counting individual posts, tho, haha.

    Congrats on your achievement!

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