Design History



Forever For Now has been around since the beginning of 1998 and has had many different looks and purposes since then. Because the website only exists in its current form, I created this page to give a small tour of the website's past.

I've been contemplating for a long time whether or not I should go through the site's history chronologically or reverse chronologically and finally I decided that a chronological overview would make most sense since the most interesting material will come early in the article.

Before writing this article I went through all backup CDs I had ever burned. I've been able to recover the site in its original form in the year 1999. I can clearly recall that the site had a different design the year I started (which was 1998), but I don't have any backups left containing that version, although I might find it later on when I go through my floppy disk archives, it's really been that long.

Get ready for a trip down memory lane as we start with the early years.

1999 - The Early Dragonsoft Days

What it looked like

The Forever For Now, or rather Dragonsoft, website in the year 1999.
The Forever For Now, or rather Dragonsoft, website in the year 1999.

The first thing you'll notice is that the website is called Dragonsoft instead of Forever For Now. Dragonsoft has been the name that I used for my personal software writing activities from somewhere around 1988 to 1999. While it sounds a bit tacky these days I always used the name with pride.

Bringing back memories

Looking back at the news you can see I just released a new version of my Z80 decompiler called DECOMP83. I wrote a lot of software related to the Z80 based TI-83 graphical calculator, some of which can still be found on the current website, for instance Titanium Multimedia and Matt3D Designer.

The menu on the left also indicates I was busy with a lot of personal things like writing an HTML introduction for students, links to MP3 players and free music and some artwork I created. Due to the alphabetical ordering of the menu it now seems like the Software Archive was one of the smaller portions of the site while in fact it was the biggest and most useful part.

You can also see a My School button which links to a page containing a little bit of background of the school I attended back then. Some of the programs mentioned, like NTChat were written based off the network setup at the school. It was a multi-user chat program for Windows NT that didn't use TCP/IP for communication so it passed the firewall without a hitch.

All in all the website wasn't really useful for outsiders and combined with the fact that the amount of users on the Internet was very small back then I guess it was a nice exercise in HTML, PHP and playing webmaster. One thing I found particularly revealing was the fact that Altavista was the major search engine in those days. Google didn't have as much mindshare back then as they do now.

2000 - Forever For Now Webzine

What it looked like

The Forever For Now webbased magazine, or webzine, in the year 2000.
The Forever For Now webbased magazine, or webzine, in the year 2000.

Early 2000 I came up with the name Forever For Now and I created a new format for the website in the form of a magazine. With regular intervals I would post new articles on new technologies and reflections on computing in general. Forever For Now became one of the first webzines with a small following.

Forming an identity

With the move to the webzine format and the new site name and layout, Forever For Now has gotten its first and own identity. The article you see displayed in the screenshot is one on the DVD format, I think this was issue number 3.

Based on the links in the recommended section on the left I was following Nick Disabato's adventures in weblog style. Kaliber10K is one of the web's leading design webzines and I think that the rest, Friend Bear, Exploding Dog and Waferbaby are all webcomics. Some of them have been blinking on and off the web at irregular intervals in the past years.

I can remember getting at least some feedback on the webzine idea. Mostly on the article about locally rooting a Windows NT machine by an array of inventive tricks.

Help me help you

This first website under the Forever For Now moniker was a great opportunity to expand my HTML and PHP skillset. The design was heavily inspired by the British band Oasis, mostly because of the fact they inspired me to do a lot of things. The design was dynamic in the way that a JavaScript script changed the images on top of the page with each view. There were about sixty different images for both the left and the right side of the header.

I could find 18 backissues of the webzine, spanning about seven months. It's been quite the miracle that I managed to write those at the time since I was very busy doing a lot of things back then. Eventually the small community there was fell apart and it was time for a new (kick)start.

2001 to 2004 - Forever For Now Weblog

What it looked like

The Forever For Now weblog on the 13th of April, 2003.
The Forever For Now weblog on the 13th of April, 2003.

Forever For Now moved on from being a webzine to representing one of the early weblogs. Over the course of almost four years the crew expanded to five people regularly posting something about anything. I have a lot to tell about this period in time, but you won't find all of it here.

Evolution, no revolution

As you can see, the design of the website didn't change much from the webzine. This was both because I liked the design and got some nice feedback on it and it had just grown on me and lots of others. Forever For Now had a distinct face and would keep it for nearly five years.

The section with permanent outgoing links still contains some of the leftover sites from the webzine and there's also some newcomers. Especially revealing is the fact there's a whole subcategory dedicated to Oasis fansites, which wasn't that odd considering three members of the crew were fans of the band.

The top link bar contains links to my online adventures. Dr. Gonzo's Instrument Finder was founded around 2003 and you can find a detailed story on its conception on this webdesign page on FFN. The others might not have made me a millionaire, but they're welcomed in the menu.

What's the story

The weblog was both one of the biggest highlights and letdowns in Forever For Now history. It's been a huge success for me and was a great outlet for ideas and feedback. There were a lot of things wrong with the weblog itself, ranging from the clock being hours off, bad HTML and weak password protection, but it served us well.

For five years, Forever For Now was all about sports, computers, movies, music, design and more general chit-chat. You name it, we got it.

In retrospect, five years of random stuff aggregated in a single weblog written by five people is either very valuable or totally worthless. It took a lot of time to make up my mind, choose the latter, close down the site, say thanks and goodbye and start again.

2005 - Forever For Now Reloaded

What it looked like

The SuSE 9.3 review on Forever For Now in 2005.
The SuSE 9.3 review on Forever For Now in 2005.

On the 24th of June, 2005 Forever For Now was relaunched after its well deserved period of downtime. With a clean slate and lots of good ideas the Fools Gold CMS based website was live. In the screenshot you see one of the Linux reviews and one of the initial page templates.

Fresh prince forever

The days before and after the launch I was writing pages at a breakneck pace and with the new content, layout and CMS delivering indexable pages the traffic to Forever For Now really started to grow. Reviews I wrote on SuSE Linux and Linspire were submitted and posted to sites like OSNews which really helped boost visitor counts.

Because of accessibility issues, the so-called FFN Drop Shadow template got several revisions during 2005. Overall, Forever For Now was revitalized and everything was back on the right track. I got a lot of very good reactions and with the growing traffic and content, maintaining the website was a very rewarding task.

I think I added new pages at a rate of one per week, partly achievable because of a lot of projects I already did and wanted to document on the site.

Gold's just around the corner

Since 2005 Forever For Now has been hosted on a server I maintain myself which has been a major opportunity for gaining experience in this field. Several server hard- and software upgrades later everything is still running smooth as silk on eight year old commodity hardware. It might not make triple-nine, but there's no doubt about 95% uptime.

The folks over at the Website Baker community have been very helpful in assisting me extend the CMS' functionality which eventually brought forth the Fools Gold branch. Website Baker is a very good CMS for content sites like Forever For Now. I chose Website Baker out of about twenty products and I have never regretted my decision.

All in all, 2005 was a great year for the website and if you're reading this now, it's because of all the hard work I put in back then.

2006 - Forever For Now Aqua

What it looked like

The Forever For Now front page on the 25th of January, 2007.
The Forever For Now front page on the 25th of January, 2007.

Building on the huge success of 2005 I simply continued the website the way I envisioned it: quality content and projects for free. I wrote Glacier around the 2005 / 2006 year change and somewhere halfway 2006 I created a new page design which was cleaner, more saturated and really aqua.

Never change a winning team

The site's content got more valuable over time with top-quality links coming in from a lot of big sites. Halfway 2006 I got a Macbook with Mac OS X and I started doing development for Ubuntu Linux. During that period my activity on the site kind of slowed down which wasn't suprising.

Even though I was developing for Ubuntu I wrote some great pages on VMware Player image creation, the Java Mustang aesthetics preview and the Ubuntu Firefox themes. These pages still attract lots of visitors each day so I'm proud I wrote those under a lot of time pressure.

Near the end of 2006 I started writing Audio Unit effects for Mac OS X and that meant a whole new audience for the site. I came in contact with Stephan M. Bernsee and really got the hang of DSP programming. The Audio Units have been a source of many visitors every since September 2006.

Star quality

During the aqua period I noticed that Forever For Now was a useful resource for a lot of people and it confirmed it was the right thing to do to have started it back in early 2005. Feeling there was still room for improvement I set out to give the site a new look for 2007.

2007 - Forever For Now, Now

What it looks like

Forever For Now Diatonic Shifter page on the 25th of January, 2007.
Forever For Now Diatonic Shifter page on the 25th of January, 2007.

The screenshot shows the end result of weeks of hard work getting the FFN Texture template ready for prime time. You can't really see the fine texture in the screenshot, but as you're reading this you might see it on the actual page.

Template improvement

The new layout has a lot of improvements over the old one:

  • Body text is now shown in a serif font for better legibility.
  • Background and link colors are less saturated and more subdued for less visual overload.
  • Subtle gradients and texture provide a refined contemporary look.
  • Printing stylesheet is properly implemented and delivers book-like results.
  • Headers, paragraphs and lines are positioned far apart for a spacious and easy to read page.
  • Font families have been selected for all operating systems and conditions.
  • Page menu is hidden by default and can be shown using a simple click interface.

Besides that, I worked on better indexability by search engines and accessibility is even more refined in the new template.

Straight course

Since the theme update there haven't been any major changes yet so there's not a lot to write about the latest look of Forever For Now. I intend to keep following the current plan of writing quality technical content and creating interesting open-source projects.

For now, the website seems to be very useful to a large audience and it seems worthwhile to keep it that way.


Word of the wise

I hope you enjoyed this short history tour and that the many faces of Forever For Now inspire you to embark on an online adventure yourself. As you can see, something doesn't quite have to end up being what it originally was. Seek out ways to improve your website and let me know the result!

About this article

This article was written on the 8th of February, 2007.

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