500th Post – A Brief History of SDS

Super Duper Stuff’s 500th post!

What better time to take a look back at the site and how it has progressed over time. We all enjoy a good reminisce from time to time don’t we?

I’ve been running this site pretty much single-handedly for over four years now, which has lead to it going through a slew of changes. In that time I’ve learnt a few things.

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

joker

Another lesson is that nothing on the Internet truly goes away. I like to keep records and mementos and the site is no different. So I was very disappointed in myself when I realised I hadn’t kept screenshots of the site over the years. What I wasn’t aware of was the Wayback Machine.

Essentially, this archive takes and stores snapshots of websites. 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 used for the site over the years. I’m happy with how the site looks now…but there were dark times, before WordPress.

Without Blogger I’d never have got started so I do have a lot of time for it and what it offers. But damn, it wasn’t pretty. Learning as I went was a great experience that lead to a series of decisions. Sometimes those decisions were great. Other times…let’s say they were less than stellar.

I know what your thinking. What did the site look like? Let me show you. Take it as you will – a cautionary tale or one of growth. Either way this is the history of Super Super Stuff and I’m happy to share it with you.

Version 1 – 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.

sds1-1

Lesson learnt – Start. Rather than keep thinking about doing something get on and 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!

Version 2 – Building it up

Look Ma, a banner! But I’ve been a complete dolt and not judged the width correctly; despite my mad paint skillz I’ve managed to make it look silly. 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 and gave that top billing. It’s still around now, with nearly 600 followers. I’m unsure how much it adds traffic wise but it saves me spamming my personal account and also allows me to share other content.

V2

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.

Version 3 – The 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 there a few things missing but still, the site looked awful and I didn’t realise that until later. It’s embarrassing to think I was pushing this onto people.

sds3

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!

Version 4 – Steadying the ship

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 real website rather than a blog. 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. Blogger wasn’t amazing for it so I thought I’d try. It didn’t do much!

Despite it being very plain this was a lot easier on the eye.

sds4

Lesson learnt – Don’t be afraid to step back and go 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 (ish) looking Blogger page than pretending it was something else and looking terrible.

Version 5 – A bold move

Three years of back and forth led to this. Moving from Blogger to WordPress.

I can’t describe strongly enough how nervous I was about this. There were so many questions that I didn’t know the answer to.

Domains? Back end? Servers? Money! Scary stuff.

There was only way I was going to start doing this. So I spent some money on hosting, thereby forcing myself not to waste it. I had to get on with it now so I set about trying to figure out this new world I’d entered.

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 over (I’d bought superdstuff.com through Blogger) but very soon I was looking at a blank page.

First off I needed a new logo. A good one. I revisited Fiverr aware of the pitfalls. I was far more precise in my instructions and the new guy presented me with more than one option. I asked for some tweaks and what came back was what you see now. Not only is the logo smart and clean but it was usable in social media without needing to be changed.

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 posts was surprisingly easy to transfer over as Blogger had an export function. What was far more painful was reformatting each post to look decent new site. What a ballache.

Looking back I jumped heavily into ‘make it look like it isn’t Blogger!’. A bit too heavily but I wanted to make a point. As I figured out more aspects of WordPress the site changed. I went through plenty of widgets, especially for featured posts.

sds5

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.


Of course the site has changed again since that big jump, to what you’re looking at now. There’s no reason why the site will ever stop changing. I’ll learn more and have different ideas. Where would be the fun be in standing still? Change is constant.

I didn’t start Super Duper Stuff with any major plan in mind. I just wanted to share my opinion. It’s gone on to become a big part of my life. From writing posts to worrying about traffic it’s always there and has given me some great opportunities. 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 another 500 posts and plenty 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!

Leave a Reply