The new up n coming design of dannychoo.com... Not.
The screenshot below is of the first version of this site back in the year 2000. The site was set up as an experimental ground for me to play with technologies like PHP and MYSQL.
The first version of the site was called "DCOS" or "Danny Choo Operating System" (how embarrassing *cringes*) - I know I know - I was young at the time so please forgive me. It was designed to look and feel like an operating system.
At the time my PHP/MYSQL skills were limited and I used Macromedia's Dreamweaver WYSIWYG coding tool for everything.
Below: In 2001, I started to play with the 3D graphic tool 3D Max
and used a lot of Max rendered objects in the UI.
With this version of dannychoo.com, I started to get headhunted in Tokyo by various companies and landed myself with a job as a developer at the JobDragon/Ingenium Group.
Below: The artwork section of the 2001 version - some of these images are still available in the artwork gallery
Below: In 2002, I was still designing sites that were designed to run on Windows IE6 only and as you can see from the splash screen below, I was rather anti Mac ^^;
By this time, I had already joined Amazon as Website Manager - a step that made me initially nervous from running a site viewed by 35 people a day to running a site that was used by millions of people per day ^^; Went from managing a handful of part-timers to a team of 30 full time staff and learned much from my team of Program Managers, QA, Designers, Web Devs, Cross Site Editorial and Builders.
You will see much of my learnings and experience of userbility and discoverability at Amazon implemented into this site here n there.
Below: In 2002, the site took on a new look n feel which I called "dannychoo.com III" - the third version of the site design. The hexagonal shapes where created in 3D Max. You will notice language links for English, Japanese, Korean and Simplified Chinese. I used to write everything in these languages but then decided to drop Korean and Chinese due to lack of time. The Chinese and Korean UI will be back soon.
Below: Still on 2002 - the artwork section.
By this time, I somehow started to acquire clients on the side who I would build web applications for. Obviously made sure that the side business didn't interfere with my responsibilities at Amazon.
Below: In 2003, the top page gets a slight facelift to accommodate more text on the top.
By this time, I started to acquire so many clients that I was in danger of affecting my responsibilities at Amazon due to the sleepless nights of programming. I then started to hire developers in Romania and India to code for me. I als set up a business entity called a Sole Proprietorship and you can read how to set one up in Japan in this article.
Below: Photos section of the site was manually designed and hardcoded. Everything now is all done automatically within a few clicks - using the ImageMagick
library to rotate images based on the embedded EXIF info, thumbnail generation and PHP does the rest by inserting the data into the database. This means I can spend less time preparing content and more time thinking of the content that I need to deliver.
Below: The guestbook back in 2003. This is the main reason why you currently comment on a separate screen - because I'm using the same code ^^;
This will change very soon where you will also be able to reply to comments via email - am so looking forward to rolling out that feature.
Below: In 2004, I was still at Amazon but spent the last 5 months of the year at Amazon headquarters in Seattle. Redesigned a lot of the site and gave it an orange look n feel which became "dannychoo.com IV."
Before I went to Seattle, I launched the blog functionality. The entries where stored in a database but apart from that there was nothing particularly special about it - it didn't even have an RSS feed.
The design of the header went to being a Flash animation of hexagons swirling in and out of the screen and coming to a halt to form the navigation.
By the end of 2004, I made enough earnings from web activities (amazon associates etc) to buy a three story house in central Tokyo. I want to share this know-how information and I write tips from time to time about monetizing online which you can read in the Blogging and Affiliate Tips category.
Below: Towards the end of 2005, I started to blog more regularly which directly lead to an increase in readership. I blogged mainly about Gundam and a few topics on Japan.
As the platform was homebrew, I could ensure that all the templates for the site where Search Engine Optimized which brought in many readers searching for "Strike Gundam" ^^; Read more about how to SEO your site in my Blog Monetization
Below: In 2006, the hexagons in the header are rounded off as I start to become infected by the "web2.0 rounded corners" disease. You can see the swirling hexagons in action at http://web.archive.org/web/20060410195201/http://www.dannychoo.com/
- the archive that goes back to 2001 is http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://dannychoo.com
Below: As the number of users started to grow, the flash animation for the header was becoming unsclabale - took time to add stuff and also look a long time to load. It was also difficult to add new items due to the fixed design. I then decided to ditch flash near the end of 2006 and go for a more conventional header with images depicting the contents of each category. This move increased conversion of people arriving from search engines results - first time visitors where more likely to stay because they discovered other content that they liked through images in the header.
By this time I was at Microsoft as CGM (Consumer Generated Media) Product Manager for the Windows Live services. Yes I was surprised that I turned down the rest of the interviews at Apple Japan to take the job at Microsoft ^^;
Below: The orange-only design started to look boring so I introduced blue and green at the beginning of 2007. Started to clean up the UI. A slight shadow is introduced around navigational elements.
By this time, I learnt a lot of CSS and started to remove all the Table tags around the site which were used for layout purposes.
Below: Concept art work of Mirai-chan
was done in Jan 2007 and design finalized at the end of Jan 2007
. The new blogging platform Nav2.0
is launched and Mirai-chan is introduced into the header space.
Below: In May 2007, Puchi Blurbs is launched and the header goes 12-pack to accommodate more content. By this time I had left Microsoft and set up Mirai Inc
Below: Cant remember when I renewed the header but it goes to being a 6-pack rollover. I found that having too many items in the header meant that new visitors would take too long to decide what they wanted to click on. The longer a new visitor needs to decide on what to click on next, the likelihood of that visitor leaving forever increases.
By this time the News Items section has been open for business since September 2007.
Below: The Alexa rank
for this site shows you when I started to blog regularly at the end of 2005. Remaining focused kept the traffic healthy (but mostly flat) throughout 2006 until March 2007. After leaving Microsoft in March, I was able to put effort into increasing the usability and discoverability of content around the site which has been one of the factors leading to the growth that you can see in 2007.
Another factor in growing the site is sharing - I wanted to share traffic with otaku/japan related site owners send which is why I introduced Featured Feeds and Otaku.fm - these tools were designed to give back to the otaku community. If you are setting up a feed, dont forget to mail me at [support at dannychoo dot com]] after.
The biggest factor that has contributed to the growth however has been you the reader. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for making this community what it is.
You can probably guess that yesterdays backend maintenance and todays post is a lead up to significant changes in the near future - all changes that will further enrich the user experience and help you discover more otaku/japan content easily.
I know that there are many readers who are not members and I'm completely fine with that but would love to reach out to as many of you as possible. The following is a list of areas where we can hookup and keep in touch - feel free to add or follow.
- Twitter - my twitter account. Partially integrated with Puchi Blurbs (which I'm testing now) and will be fully integrated soon.
- YouTube - my YouTube account. I often upload videos here a few days before I release it at dannychoo.com.
- FaceBook - my FaceBook account.
- Linkedin - my Linked in account. If you need introductions to anybody at Microsoft, Amazon or Google or any other internet company in Japan then let me know.
- Flickr - Will be adding more pics from the site soon.
- Mixi - the Japanese Social Networking Service.
- PlayStation 3 ID = "dannychoodotcom" - watch me loose in any online battle ^^;
How many of you use any one of these services? If there are any other services that you recommend then let me know.
Yesterdays Alexa rank was recorded at 5,278 and the goal was to get into the worlds top 5000 sites by mid year. It looks like a new stretch goal should be set ^^;