TLDR; We have finally launched Dock and would love your feedback on the site: dockarts.com/feedback, thank you!
So this is a little different to the posts that you will normally see on here; I thought I would give a bit of an insight into the creation of Dock.
Some of our readers have created websites for themselves already, some using content management systems such as Wordpress, and others…...
By sharing how we built our site, we hope to help others who are looking to do the same.
A tiny bit on my background
I am Chris Vasey and my full time gig is to build websites for people, though it hasn’t always been this way.
I started out when I was 16 fixing computers. Believe it or not, fixing shit for people and making shit for people are two completely different games. Usually, the best way of fixing a problem is to try and build the solution.
One of the first things I learnt in IT was how servers worked. I used to spend entire afternoons watching all the code files being uploaded and wondering - what was their purpose? What did all their abbreviations mean? auth.php, .htaccess, robots.txt, index.html… It all seemed completely foreign, but that only made me determined to learn more about it.
This prompted my all-encompassing google search - “how to make websites” - and with it came the discovery of codecademy. The goal of this site was to teach people basic code and after the first lesson, I was hooked. I spent the next two years slowly learning how the web worked. It started with writing simple web pages, making little gags to insult or amuse friends. But soon, I began adding more complicated features building small games and writing scripts to automate small tasks at work. Suddenly, I felt like I had a superpower.
Fast forward to 2016 and people are now paying me to build them sites and apps. It seems crazy, but I have managed to turn something I did for fun at first into a full time job.
How Dock started
Like most great projects, it all started over a pint. I had been talking to my friend Jess about how young artists get work out into the world and, as an artist herself, how she could use the internet to promote her work. She had shown me some of the work her friends at uni were producing and I was in awe of it. But, I had no real way of discovering any of this amazing art.
“What if we had somewhere online where new and developing artists could post their work, and people could learn more about them through an interview?"
Let’s see what we can do.
Our starting point was to find a couple artists who would be interested in being featured. While we had some people in mind, we decided to open it up to anybody to see how much interest it would get, and maybe discover a few new artists along the way.
I created a quick survey using typeform and we sent it out to a couple of our arty friends, expecting to get a few responses.
Fast forward a week:
Well, shit. Now we really need to make it happen.
Designing the site
Now onto the hard stuff; designing a website that will be used by people who know a lot more about visual design than I do.
The first step was to research as many different magazines and galleries as possible to find the best way of designing each element. A lot of inspiration was drawn from the "It’s Nice That" magazine. It stays extremely minimal, allowing the reader to focus only on what matters: the content. I really wanted to capture the essence of this on Dock. Based on this research, we decided to split the site into different areas. One part would be dedicated to artists’ work and their profiles; the other to articles and interviews by the Dock team.
Once we knew what the site would need, we started sketching rough designs. Jess began contacting artists to get samples of work and I started to write the code.
Websites with constantly changing content
Websites nowadays need to be easily updated and changed. We needed to upload new artists and articles as we discovered them, without having to go into the raw code. This is done using a Content Management System (CMS) which allows Jess and Alex to easily enter new articles and artists straight onto the site. The CMS I chose to use for Dock was a system called Kirby. It was completely customizable and extremely ‘lightweight’ (leaving out all the shit you don’t need), adding a high level of flexibility to our content.
Tearing it all down and starting fresh
About a month had passed since we had put out the artist survey and things were going well. The amount of interest we had received from the student community was positive and it had been shared by different Uni’s across the country. The site was progressing well and I had created a basically working version.
We were all on track to launch, suddenly we all become extremely busy.
A few months had passed now, I opened up the Dock project for the first time in a while and was deeply unhappy with how it looked.
Shortcuts I had been taken earlier meant it was running slow and the design was extremely basic and the code seemed sloppy.
To the dismay of our friends, excited to see the site launched, I set out to rewrite the code from the ground up, using what I had learned since starting the project.
It took me just over 3 weeks of train commutes, late nights and early mornings, but I finally got the site to where it is now.
I am extremely happy with how it works and I am excited to get it out into the world and see what everyone thinks.
So what now
If you are reading this article, it means Dock is now live, though far from finished.
I plan on developing the site further, adding new features and keeping the design fresh. It is early days but we have some really cool changes and exciting content coming out over the next few months.
If you have any feedback on Dock (functionality or design), we would love to hear from you.
I have set up a feedback from at dockarts.com/feedback for this purpose.
P.s I am currently writing this at 11582m above the Atlantic on route to Canada. I have spent the journey so far adding final touches to Dock. Having no internet has been rough, though sometimes that is what you need to get shit done.
Thank you for everyone’s support so far, you guys are the best.