To celebrate the launch of his improved website, I had a little chat with Faruk, whilst drinking copious amounts of tea.
Faruk, thanks for taking the time to answer some of these questions. Your website, at what version are you now?
It's at version 8. Well technically anyway. It started out as a completely different site, four or five years ago, and over the years there have been various progressions. By the time I got to version 5 I started the current version as a weblog, and it was at that point I started getting interested in web standards. Actually, version 6 was the first weblog. Right now, we're at version 8.
So your entrance in the web standards scene has been relatively recent, well, comparing to people like Jeffrey Zeldman anyway. How did you first get involved in this whole internet thing?
That must have been in '96, I was very busy playing a console game, Final Fantasy VII, and I met some people online, who wrote fanfiction about that game. I was so intrigued by that, I wanted to write my own fanfiction, so I started this small homepage on Angelfire (of all things), and on that homepage I started publishing my own little stories. And eventually I realised that websites, web development, was something I really enjoyed so I decided to try it professionally. It wasn't until 2,5 or three years ago that I first got to know about web standards. Until then it was just… messy.
Switching to web standards seems a natural evolutionary step for every web designer out there. What was the thing that triggered your switch?
That's a tough question. I don't think, i'm not sure I can remember what exactly was. I know that at some point I was working with vBulletin software, for forums, and those are just a mess of nested tables upon nested tables. And, as I slowly entered the web-logging scene, that disappeared entirely. What got me involved in web standards, I don't really remember. It was probably just friends pointing me in that direction. I realised the improvement it was to websites. It really cleaned up my websites. Web standards really makes a hell of a difference. It was a gradual process. I started using css for styling links and such, and it progressed in styling more elements, eventually leading to the introduction of semantic mark-up. Over time all the old school methods just disappeared. I got happier every time I learned more.
Back to your website. Version 8, that's a hell of a lot of versions. What happened after your first weblog-based website?
After version 6 was done, on October 1st 2004, just over a year ago, that was when I actually finally finished version 6. that became a pretty popular weblog, with focus on web standards and web development using modern techniques. And around may of this year, I dropped version 6 in favour of verion 7 which was never really announced, the header still used the version 6 logo, which didn't really make sense. Version 7 was just an experiment, best know for the “Live Redesign”, in which I wanted to discover the more intricate levels of web development. It was an elastic layout, as I wanted to learn more about this techniques complications. Live Redesign allowed me to create a showcase of how a website is built, using web standards.
We have now arrived at version 8. Which could be considered your first 'proper' website. Could you walk us through some of the good bits. What makes it stand out in the crowd?
Besides FACE, the website has 21 unique styles, entire themes for areas on the site. Which is quite a lot. The website took all of six months to design, develop, and everything.Especially the creation of the themes has been an immense process.
Another thing, the site has an elastic layout, with faux columns by Dan Cederholm, but then an elastic version, which I had to create by myself, as there was nothing online which allowed for this, or worked the way I wanted it to.
That must be the most important differences.
Well, that sure is enough :) . You mentioned the site took around six months to create from scratch. Did it mutate a lot since it's inception?
One of the reasons why I consider this to be my first proper website is when I had the first idea for this redesign, I had a very clear idea in my head and it's become almost exactly the way I envisioned it back then. I had the idea on a Sunday morning, and immediately started sketching it out and the only thing that has been changed since then is the logo, which is about an inch higher then on the very first sketch, mostly because of grid issues.
Did your switch to Apple have any influence on the website?
Oh definitively. The first few designs were created on my windows PC, so the main principles were laid out before the switch. By the time I made the switch I came up with a whole bunch of extra ideas for little things, particularly the FACE-animations. A lot of those have been inspired by the workings of OSX.
On the whole it has just been a more pleasant development experience, and hasn't really influenced the site other then that.
Your switch to Apple wasn't the only interesting change; you recently left your job at Media Design, so, you are now at your home office, which has a fabulous view of the Dutch landscape, I see some ducks in the water outside the window. Do these surroundings help your inspiration?
You can definitively say this is an interesting area here, because sometimes I really feel like i've landed in the middle of a zoo. We have sheep in the garden, cats at home in my room, there's all kinds of animals roaming around the house. The animals don't really inspire me however. It's mostly the views. The incredible landscape view I have here is one of the most inspiring things, especially when I wake up in the morning and find the most beautiful sunrises. Also, interesting is, many artists and painters in the world have said that the Netherlands have the best natural light, which I really agree with. The light here, related to the clouds and the landscape, is really astonishing. I draw a lot of inspiration from that. It's also something you can see on the site itself. Several of the headers incorporate pictures taken in this area, and mostly feature the skies.
And now the site is live and you will have spare time again. Which projects will be able to benefit from your energy in the coming months?
Well, there's the WebNL Conference we hope to set up. Which of course, you are part of. A lot of energy will go into my new company; the first two weeks have been pretty much dedicated to getting the site finished before the SXSW Webawards. An interesting deadline to have (I hope it pays off).
There are some more projects in the running, that I really can't talk about yet.
I'm also speaking during SXSW, so that too is something I'll be putting a lot of energy into as well.
I have a lot of projects going, but for the time being, the WebNL conference and my own company will be the main focus.
Thanks for answering these questions!
(This Interview was recorded using mini disc, and will not be released as a podcast)