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SimPage.net has been around for quite some time now, and has etched its presence into the community in various ways throughout the past few years. Over these years, as Maxis has grown, so has this site, with new content, and occasionally a new look. We're on to version 5.0 now, a design which was conceived in mid-October 2000, and we've developed a lot of history to look back on, but with over three years on the web, that's a given.
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It all started one fine day, when AT&T Worldnet Service began to offer personal web site hosting to its members for the first time. I tinkered a bit between October of 1997 and early 1998 with a SimGames site that wasn't really much of a site. I don't have any files leftover from that time period to display here unfortunately. (http://home.att.net/~spakl)
Once 1998 came around, I had created an account at Tripod where I had stored half of my site... to this day I still don't know why I did that. This first public release, version 1.0, opened some time between December 1997 and February 1998. At that time, the site covered SimCity Classic, 2000, 3000, SimCopter, SimTower, SimLife, and SimAnt. I called it SPAKL's SIM Page, using the web alias I had created, SPAKL (The initials of the members of my family). The design was admittedly poor and needed work, but I was having fun, and it was my first try at making a web site. I began to dwell in the now defunct Maxis BBS chatting about SimCity 3000, where I first made an entrance into the actual community of SimGamers. I was visiting www.Maxis.com nearly daily, always watching for new information about SimCity 3000, which at that time was supposed to be released in 1998, on my 486 Windows 3.1 PC and lightning fast 14.4 modem.
I was starting to run out of room at my 2 MB AT&T account, and wasn't fond of the pop-up banners on Tripod, so I decided to go somewhere where I could get 11 MB of space for free, with no ads. I moved to Xoom hosting. My address was http://members.xoom.com/SimKS, using my new alias which was "Sim" plus my initials. While hosted at Xoom I moved through a couple of designs. Version 1.5 was released on July 23, 1998 (which happens to be my mom's birthday). In any case, this new layout featured some music, a web-based chat room and a lot of new content to the site. I also decided to move everything but the SimCreations section over to the Xoom site from Tripod.
A few months later, sometime around October 1998 I decided that "SPAKL's SIM Page" needed a new design and a better name. I created four potential designs and I asked around a bit. Version 2.0 ended up coming out fairly nice. I added a new poll and a scrolling Java applet for news. I also tried to create a non-frames version of the site because some people had complained about disliking frames. The design stayed pretty much the same for a while. I liked the color scheme and later expanded the site with a webring. It was around this time that I also decided it would be a good idea for me to move on to a more memorable URL, so after talking with Karl Zimmerman of nozone.net, he set me up with a subdomain account at http://simpage.nozone.net. "SPAKL's SIM Page" also changed its name to "The SimPage." It wasn't really all that different, just sounded a bit better.
I had also been talking a lot with Matt Czolij of the SimElite Club who advised me that I should not use Maxis' copyrighted MIDI files on my site. I did as he suggested and removed the music-playing box in the upper left-hand corner of the site. I replaced it with a bar along the top of the screen to provide quick links to different parts of the site. This constituted version 2.1, which turned out to be only a few minor changes sometime in February of 1999.
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While at Nozone, The SimPage gained a lot of popularity and managed to draw a lot more visitors. After a couple more months, I decided that the site design was not serving my visitors well. I knew that I needed to create something that made it easier for people to find things on the site, and so I decided to unveil version 3.0 on July 8, 1999. I thought I really had something. Then, two days later, after some negative feedback and my own disgust with the design, I tried another variation which I really believed I could make work.
Version 3.1 turned out to be not much better. It was up only a few days when I got tired of how it looked. To make matters worse, the site was incredibly difficult to edit, even in FrontPage Express, which I had been using to create the pages. The pages had such complicated tables that my computer could barely render them in the editor. I hadn't even finished converting all the pages from 2.0 to 3.0 before I went and changed it again. I knew that I would need something totally different. Version 3.0 could not be saved, so I went on to version 4.0.
My next idea was going to have to work, so I took a pen and paper before I tried to go ahead and develop a new design. I managed to come up with a really nice layout by scrawling my ideas on paper until I got what I wanted. I was sure this design was a keeper, so I got started around July 20th, 1999 to try and get it set up.
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Success! The feedback was positive. Version 4.0 came out nicely and launched on July 27, 1999. I got all the pages converted and the end result was exactly what I wanted. I knew this design would last for quite a while, and it did. Version 4.0 needed only two small upgrades in more than a year and a half of existence.
One of the greatest successes of version 4.0 was that it improved the navigation and organization of The SimPage. That's been my goal ever since. I tried to remove useless code and pages and create a navigation structure that makes sense. Version 4.0 did an excellent job with that.
Version 4.1 was a relatively minor change. I decided to add a CGI script called Newspro to make it easier to update site news. The SimPage got its own domain name at http://www.simpage.net. I also left the nozone servers to join Karl Zimmerman's new venture, SimGames.net. This required the banner you see at the top of the page. This change occured around March of 2000. The organization of the home page was improved in this upgrade and I streamlined a few areas of the site.
Version 4.2 was the last of version 4.x. I implemented it on June 18, 2000. It added some dynamic HTML menus and other goodies to improve organization and navigation even further. The existing menus were converted to Netscape and Opera compatible menus and some work was done to promote compatibility between all 4.0 web browsers. This version was now designed to allow organized expansion and development of the site and allow easier management, which it did well.
I got fed up with several things over the year and a half that The SimPage version 4.x was up and running. The first was WYSIWYG HTML editors. If you don't pay for your editor, you get your money's worth. FrontPage Express wrote HTML poorly. I could do better and I knew it, so I did. I abandoned my HTML editor, and started to update the site using notepad. I made a strong effort to clean up the variety of messes that FrontPage Express created, and got the site's size and loading time down tremendously, but it just wasn't enough.
I also got sick of Netscape. Many people don't realize it, but the technology Netscape 4.x is based on is two things, and two things only: ancient and pure garbarge. The fact that I had to write HTML badly in order for Netscape to display things correctly was a solid indication of that.
There was one more thing that bothered me. No one could ever remember my URL, and if they did they always thought it was SimPage.com. It would have been SimPage.com, but some company owns the domain, despite the fact that it's not being used for a web site. I needed to find a way to make my URL more memorable.
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Enter SimPage.net version 5.0! The idea behind version 5.0 is a simple, fast, compatible, and memorable site. I designed the site from the ground up with 100% pure HTML 4.0 and Cascading Style Sheets. It's now smaller, and simpler, plus it's fully compatible with Mozilla, Internet Explorer, and Opera 6.x. I had to leave Netscape 4.x users in the dust, but users of better browsers will thank me for doing just that. In addition to the structural changes, I also introduced a brand new name, SimPage.net. No more will visitors forget the site URL because it's now in the name!
With version 5.0, I've added new content, and more automation with enhanced CGI scripting and Server Side Includes. Everything is easier for me, and for you.
Version 5.0 launched on December 1, 2001, and it should stick around for a while. I hope you're enjoying this visit to SimPage.net. Thanks for coming!
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