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State of Coffee by Mark Prince
Launching a New Website
Posted: December 1, 2001
Article rating: 8.3
feedback: (0) comments | read | write

January 4, 2000. That's how long ago the CoffeeGeek.com domain name was registered.

I'm actually surprised still to this day that the domain name wasn't taken. The way it came about was simple. A fellow online coffee nut going by the name of Gonzo and were conversing on the phone. I jokingly called him the supremo coffee geek, a name I'd been using to describe myself and others for years at that point, and just for the heck of it, I went to Network Solutions and did a name search. CoffeeGeek.com was indeed available, so the next day I pointed out this fact to Gonzo and suggested he register it. He was having none of that :) so after mulling it for another few weeks, I reg'ed it myself. But I had no idea what to do with it.

Around that same time my company's main programming guru and I were developing the review engine that would be launched on my hobby site, www.coffeekid.com. Developed in Active Server Pages (.asp) technology, I had no idea that it would be so popular - in fact, the original "engine" was coded without high bandwidth or server requests in mind - I figured maybe 50, 100 people a week would view the website, and it was fine for those purposes. Little did I know that the resource would become so popular, or that my hobby site would take off like it did.

Design 3
This design was the first one that had articles, not just consumer reviews and in depth reviews.
Design 4
For this design, more impact was placed on writing articles, as well as the idea of "featuring" reviews randomly.
Design 4b
A slightly new look, with heavy emphasis on large pictures on every page (random images). Never liked this one.
Design 4b Second Page
A retooling completely, going back to the CoffeeKid colors. I still tried to make use of those handdrawn images!

After about 3 months, traffic was way over the top. It was approaching 8,000 visitors a week and about 25,000 page views. The software written wasn't developed for that kind of delivery, where at any given time we would have 25, 35 active sessions. We had to super tweak the Access 2000 database being used, and grumbles about server traffic were heard from my site host. Something had to be done. I didn't want to run advertisements on a hobby site, a personal web site. I find that practice distasteful, but financial realities are what they are. The seeds of this website were born.

In the very first developmental incarnation of this website, the idea was that it would just be the repository and visiting place for consumer reviews of products. Not much thought was given to community site features, how to keep the website fresh and topical, or very much else. Optimizing the code, and helping to pay for the bandwidth were the primary concerns. About a month was spent tooling around with the design, and we were ready to build the thing, when real work got in the way.

In what was to become a common theme, my paying job took precedence over work on this future website. Had to pay the bills, after all. That common theme was, come up with a design, come up with some html, tweak it, then plan to hand it over to the programming geeks but never get around to it. Then trash all the work I did, and start over again.

I actually donít have the first two design incarnations handy any longer, but I do have the seeds of design 3, 4 and 5. You can see the screenshots from the photoshop development files, to the right. By design three, I decided to move towards a more rounded online package, one that presented cultural articles, opinion articles, and eventually, even randomly featured reviews on the front page.

Each time I redesigned the site, tweaked it a bit, worked on it, I really didn't like the look much. It wasn't what I was looking for. It wasn't terribly professional either, and it didn't do what I wanted it to do.

Then in the spring of 2001, I came up with the design and structure for what eventually became this website you're visiting right now. Oh sure, it looked a bit different from what you're seeing now, but the structure was mapped out first, and design came second. Weekly columnists. Detailed Reviews unlike anything else in the coffee world, online or in print. Guest columnists, featuring some of the industry heavyweights. A tips and tricks section. And of course, the basis of it all - the consumer reviews. A place online where you can get unbiased, detailed and sometimes even controversial information on all that is coffee, espresso, and the businesses that run the industry.

One thing was still missing. The structure of the site had a lot going for it - a ton of information, and a very dynamic, constantly updating interface. But something was missing, and I couldn't quite place my finger on it. By July 2001, I figured it out.

To be continued on December 7, 2001.

Article rating: 8.3
Posted: December 1, 2001
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
State of Coffee Column Archives email author
Mark PrinceColumn Description
This regular column will tackle the world of espresso and coffee, including all the theories, controversies, changes and structures that make up this world. A heavy emphasis is placed on the online coffee community, and one thing this column won't do is pull any punches. Every week we'll feature the up's and downs, a quick yet detailed rundown of things that are good and not so good in the coffee world.

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