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Evolution of the Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project Website

This site has changed quite a bit since its initial creation in 1999. Here are some screenshots of its evolution.

cblights version 1 home       cblights version 1 - lighthouse

Version 1 (04/1999 - 07/2002)

The original Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project was only the second website I had built. It was written in straight html, used frames and targeted an 800 x 600 screen resolution - which, if not modern, was at least respectably current for its time. It even included a hit counter. I actually still like the theme in a nostalgic way. This original site was almost completely dedicated to the lighthouses, though a couple cruising-related pages had snuck in and were searching for a home. The lights were grouped according to Northern Bay, Middle Bay, Southern Bay, and Other Areas, as we were still in the process of visiting them all. It was first hosted on a free service, but they added pop-up ads which annoyed me. So, I moved it the personal hosting space that came with my Earthlink dial-up account (remember dial-up?). Finally, I bit the bullet, registered the cblights.com domain in May 2002 and paid for a real hosting service.

cblights version 2 home       cblights version 2 - lighthouse

Version 2 (08/2002 - 02/2004)

Pretty soon frames went the way of the dodo. Tools like DreamWeaver and FrontPage helped one create pages with cool (though not yet completely standardized) features. I had checked off all the USLHS's 40+3 lights, had my own domain, and felt the site needed a facelift. I'm not a web designer, but I gave it a fair shot. Version 2 made heavy use of image maps, but I wasn't good enough with Photoshop to make it look really sharp. Still, I consciously themed it, while keeping a simple user-friendly design. Cruising got its own area and some Miscellaneous pages creeped in along with a few "Easter egg" hidden links. All said, the image maps made it a pain in the neck to update and I never really liked the blue and lavender color scheme. The site was featured in several magazine articles and I still felt I needed better. So, this version only lasted a year and a half.

cblights version 3 home       cblights version 3 - lighthouse

Version 3 (03/2004 - 05/2011)

In 2004, I re-built the site based on the GUI design of the Smithsonian Education site (a project I had helped with at work). This gave it a pretty slick, professional look, which it kept for a little over 7 years. The menus combined images and mouse-over effects which I made manageable by breaking the header, menu, and footer code out into server side includes. This became a bit messy on the back end and I eventually started playing with a simple, though less visually appealing, JavaScript-based menu within the Cruising screens. The use of includes forced me to use a non-.html file extension so the pages would be assembled by a web server. I chose .asp over .shtml, which I later regretted a little since it tied the site to a Windows web hosting infrastructure.

cblights version 3 home       cblights version 3 - lighthouse

Version 4 (05/2011 - present)

By 2011, the Version 3 design was starting to show its age. In particular, computer monitors were bigger with higher screen resolutions and the pages were becoming hard to read (a fact brought home when my 80+ year old father complained about it during our Bahamas cruise). Our cruising hiatus had generated hundreds of image pages, so the back end was a mess. I also wanted the option of moving to a cheaper, Linux, hosting service. The lighthouse project itself was long finished and our cruising was winding down a bit. However, after 12 years cblights.com had become a part of my personal identity. So, with somewhat tepid enthusiasm, I began re-coding the site once again. This time, I took a KIS approach with a goal of making the site completely standards compliant (straight, validated XHTML 1.0 Transitional, CSS 2.1, using the 960 Grid System) and capable of being run in just a browser. I tried to keep the overall flavor of the previous theme, but moved to a single JavaScript-based menu and pulled all of our photos into a set of filmstrips and slideshows using jQuery / GalleryView. Hopefully, this will give it another 7 years.

Thanks for visiting.
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