How Creative Spirits evolved
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Isn't it fun to dig in old archives and compare the before - after? I've done it for this site and here's the result:
2000 — CreativeSpirits.de is born
Creative Spirits was conceived much earlier — I always had a name for what I did.
But in 2000 I decided to go for a website. This edition was made using frames and colours typical for Australia.
Images were scarce and knowing nothing about design I centred most of the content.
Site size: 900 KB
2001 — Content rules
Nothing much changed design-wise but I added lots of content.
A new section introduced resources like book reviews, newsletters, newspapers and postings. I added many images of scanned slides of my travel through Western Australia.
CSS rendered most of the styling.
Site size: 2 MB
2002 — A slight redesign
Small steps towards "design": The navigation is left-aligned and the site features a breadcrumb navigation.
"Further information" links supplement my content at the bottom of each page about Western Australia, a service which would prove very time-consuming to build and maintain.
I add the elaborate feedback-boomerang. The site still uses frames.
Site size: 3.6 MB
2003 — The revolution?
Except for the homepage and the Lyrics section, frames are scrapped. Images are no longer centred in the copy but jut out of the text to the right. This feature works with Netscape Navigator 4.
Over the year, many movie reviews go into this new section. Images are sliced to facilitate loading and make image fraud more difficult.
Colours are changed to lighten the mood. I add a custom error page, a robots.txt and search functionality. But the site still lacks design and good contrast.
Site size: 6 MB
2004 — Colour and navigation
Frames are gone now. I'm still not happy with the colour scheme and make it lighter again to improve readability.
The menu tries to accomplish the difficult task to show in two levels where you are.
I add the "Web design" section to promote my web work. The site complies to the HTML 4.01 Strict specification.
Site size: 13.5 MB
2005 — The revolution!
I drop the idea of using background colours to match the Australian landscape. Following a trend and the long search for a decent colour scheme I move to a white background and subtle reds and yellows for headings and design elements.
My studies on design show results in a much better contrast for the copy, repeating design elements and lots of white space.
A different pictorial header for each chapter puts life into the design. I drop the labour-intensive "further information" links. The site complies with the XHTML 1.0 Strict specification.
Site size (excluding downloads): 44 MB
2006 — Beautiful photography
This year saw the addition of the 'photography' section. I not only wanted to offer top class photos of my excursions but also a user-friendly slide show without the overhead of Flash.
2007 — Content, content, content and Google
I have added much content to the site. Visits to the Indigenous Film Festival prompted me to add movie reviews which eventually paid off. Google rewarded me this year with a #1 rank for 'aboriginal movies' and a #2 rank for 'aboriginal films'.
I added a new section, 'Aboriginal Culture', for which I started to write researched articles. I try to use as many Aboriginal sources as possible to offer an Aboriginal rather than a white perspective. One of the popular entries, Aboriginal alcohol consumption, ranks in Google's top 5.
2008 — A new domain with a bad surprise
Early in 2008 I moved from the German (de) to a neutral (info) domain to reflect my living in Australia and to better serve my by now mainly Australian-English users.
However, I forgot that my homepage was in utterly bad condition. No SEO, not many links into my site, and consequently Google dropped my site out of their index after they re-evaluated it.
I had to create a new home page from scratch for traffic to recover to normal levels, which it did after about four weeks. It made it clear to me how powerful Google is when you get about 75% percent of your traffic through organic search.
Two years after adding the section on Aboriginal culture, 9 out of 10 most visited pages are from that area.
2009 — You are gridding me!
Building on what I had learned about grids and vertical rhythm I relaunched the site, aligning components to the grid and restyling my text so that all typography aligned to a vertical rhythm.
Click on the image to compare before and after.
It was a pleasant surprise that the Uniting Church in Queensland voted my site "Website of the Week" in August.
This year traffic reached 2,000 hits a day for the first time.
2010 — Defeat
About half a year after scoring 2,000 hits a day, the site had the first day with 3,000 single hits.
The respectable ABC website quotes my site in one of their articles.
I have to declare defeat—too little time for too much to do. I decide to introduce a content management system and work hard to create templates and migrate hundreds of pages manually. By year's end the main resources section has been migrated.
2011 — An unexpected recognition
In March traffic reaches 4,000 hits a day. The poetry section moves into the content management system. Many more entries for books come in as it's now easier to add content.
Together with a friend I present my site at the Aboriginal Studies Association Conference in Sydney.
In December I receive an email from the National Library of Australia which "has selected [my] publication for archiving because we have judged it to be an important component of the national documentary heritage." The site is now publicly available in the PANDORA Archive.
2012 — Completed content migration
I've finally put all the content into the content management system, a long process, but it enabled me to focus much more on content.
Over the course of this year the site had almost one million unique visitors, reading about 2 pages in 2:13 minutes. The Stolen Generations and Aboriginal poetry were the most popular content.
2013 — On Air
From little things… Triggered by my article about Aboriginal remains repatriation, the artsHub site introduced my website to their readers ("Anything but Indigenous"). This led to two radio interviews, one of them on SBS.
2014 — New logo & design
In March my Facebook community reaches 1,000 people who are interested in occasional updates and news feeds.
After a long time this site gets a contemporary logo representing Australia and education. I've also updated the design to be lighter and better to read.
In November, Aboriginal media company CAAMA interviews me about racism.
2015 — A brand new email list
I complete the migration to the new design. In March I learn that an 'email list' is vital for anyone running a website - I had no idea! I'm years too late! So I set up my very first email list on 6 April, using the free plan from Benchmark Email. I read dozens of articles about marketing and learn about hot lists, lead magnets, drip campaigns, sales funnel, writing headlines and enter a whole new world.
2016 — A tough year
My list is growing, and I love my friendly community, especially when I get a lot of encouragement after I accidentally send a reminder to join to some who already had. I send out emails for every day that is significant on an Aboriginal calendar. Not only Invasion Day and Mabo Day, but also lesser known days, and I learn about one that I hadn't even heard of before.
While this content is warmly welcomed by my email list, I battle personal challenges and the death of my mum. My stress level is high as never before.
2017 — The journey of an ebook
Creative Spirits now has 342 articles, including many poems, with an average of more than 1,250 words. I'm working hard to publish an ebook about Aboriginal culture. I have to abandon a release in May due to personal reasons. I want the book to be concise, fun to read, interactive and like nothing that's currently available. I'm also applying for funds to have this site reviewed by Aboriginal people, something that has been close to my heart for a while now. Unfortunately, both applications are unsuccessful. Late this year I migrate to a new email subscription provider, ConvertKit. Costs more, but, as they say, "you get what you pay for".
2018 — I switch the engine off
I finally launch my ebook Aboriginal Culture Essentials on 30 January, in time for the new school term, and am very happy that the community accepts it as a "handy, wonderful tool and resource" (Renee C).
CNN quotes me as a "respected online Indigenous cultural resource". Thank you, CNN!
After using the same content management system (Expression Engine) for eight years I decide it's time for a new one. For months I migrate more than 2,800 database entries, rewrite almost 200 templates and develop user experience improvements such as full-text searches for all resources and the Aboriginal timeline.
2019 — A lesson about social media
When you've built a website over as much time as I have you are somewhat in love with your "baby" and take criticism seriously, no matter from whom. But some people are not interested in constructive criticism or cultural quality. They seem intent on venting anger and convincing their community that their view is the right one.
This year I learnt the hard way that, as a creator, you cannot make it right for everyone, and some will always oppose what you do, no matter how much you try. After wading through a lot of toxic text on social media I realised one thing through: I need to give back to community more. Which gave birth to my donation program. Why didn't they just tell me?
2020 — Corona & code
In March the corona virus puts a spanner in many people's routines and I'm no exception. Working from home is nice but after a full day working at the computer I often no longer want to continue – and so do less for this website and its community.
But I do catch up in the second half of the year, optimise the templates and refresh the design to be more readable (which happened accidentally after reading about variable fonts and starting to play with them). I add an Aboriginal music timeline to a growing number of timelines.
2021 — First things first
I change emails to my subscribers to be more practical by including short tips about events and resources I have come across. 'First Nations' is a term that gets more and more traction as an appropriate label for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and I start using that term when I update articles.
In the second half of the year I complete an ally accreditation program which helps me be a better ally to First Nations peoples.
2022 — What's up?
Don't worry, I'll be working on this thing!
Watch this space.