With my usual impeccable timing, I’ve just taken over a small web design agency with a long history, based in Waipu in Northland. The handover was mere days after the lockdown came into effect.
In her own words, Jan Malone tells her story of computer programming back in the 1970s before starting Action Web Design in the “Wild West” days of the internet.
History of Action Web Design
When Action Web Design was formed in 1997, I had no idea of the rapid technological advances that would occur over the next 23 years – and the implications on our society. Most businesses had not realised the potential of the brand new Internet in 1997. However, as the orders arrived and their businesses grew, they soon appreciated the advantages in marketing their products and services to the world and I was in the right place at the right time to help them.
My background was in computer programming. When I started programming in 1979, computers were the size of wardrobes and lines of code were printed on perforated punch cards. An operator compiled your code – if he was in a good mood. A cup of tea and a bikkie ensured your code was not shunted to the bottom of the pile. The advent of keyboards and my very own screen was a huge step forward and freed me from the tyranny of operators.
I spent 16 years analysing, designing and developing computer systems for a variety of corporates in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. It was exciting and challenging work. The arrival of the Internet in the 1990s led to a fascinating opportunity to combine creative skills learned during a previous career as a photographer and analytical skills from programming. it was a natural progression to create websites for clients.
So Action Web Design was born. I set up an office in my home in Waipu and created my first website in 1997. Called Ecotours New Zealand it was a directory of New Zealand ecotourism operators. After working within the strict editorial regime of a daily newspaper they were exhilarating times. I could publish anything! To the world! Freedom! However, Freedom is a two-edged sword. With freedom comes responsibility and potential for harm. The early Internet was like the Wild, Wild West. I quickly learned to monitor the comments section of blogs to avoid a tirade of pornographic abuse. I am pleased to see Facebook and Twitter now do the same.
My first website was called Ecotours New Zealand. It was a directory of about 115 New Zealand ecotourism operators. The hardest part was persuading walk-short wearing ecotourism operators of the value of marketing over the Internet or “the Inter-webby thingy”. Once the bookings started flooding in, they were convinced and gave me full support. Ecotours NZ ran for 15 years and was eventually crowded out by competition from big agencies with big budgets who jumped on the ecotourism bandwagon.
The web design business grew rapidly. My clients were many and various and ranged from tiny little bed and breakfasts to large organisations such as Aotearoa Fisheries. My priority has always been to provide excellent support and high-quality service. Consequently, many clients became personal friends. I have not personally met many of them and business was done over the phone or by email. I learned of the ingenuity and hard work that went into all small businesses which comprise 70% of all New Zealand businesses. I learned of the long hours and administrative minutiae necessary to run Action Web. I was the toughest boss I had ever had, but I was proud to help my clients promote their business and achieve their goals.
I have seen many changes. Once it was tough to explain the benefits of the Internet to suspicious and uncomprehending clients. Now social networking has become the norm and almost anyone can put anything on the Net. Daily news used to be via a newspaper and TV and libraries. Now it is taken for granted that every home has access to the Internet and information is freely available via uncle Google etc. Entertainment, medical research and travel communications rely on the Internet. The challenge is to apply discernment and filter genuine information from the rubbish and click-bait.
It has been a privilege to be a pioneer in the computer and web design industry. I have thoroughly enjoyed designing web sites and solving problems for my clients. Now, I am very pleased to retire and pass the reins to Dave Smyth from Energise Web. I am sure Energise will provide excellent support to my clients, especially with marketing expertise.
Best wishes with Action Web Design Dave.
24 March 2020