During the summer of 2002, a small website called The Hufflepuff Pages was born. This website, with a design that included yellow text on a black background, lasted a little while, but I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, so I gave it up. I also eventually came to the conclusion later that I am more a Ravenclaw at heart than a Hufflepuff anyway.
However, around the end of that summer, I was ready to start again. This time the website was called The Whomping Willow, which later transformed into another Harry Potter website called Hogwarts Courtyard, in May of 2005. Now it is 2010, and I have persisted with this Harry Potter website endeavor for eight years. At the end of the day, I consider my website one of my greater accomplishments. Let’s start with The Whomping Willow.
Versions One through Three
Although you don’t see it very much anymore, many websites used a different slogan for each of their versions, and I also did the same. The first version was called “The Tree That Hits Back”, the second was “Passage to Hogsmeade”, and the third was “Game 2, Level 1”. They were very much the same in layout, but really varied in style and color. The first used very light greens, the second used dark grays and silvers, and the third used light and dark purples. These versions actually got their names from the pictures I used in their banners. For the first, I used the second book chapter picture of the crash into the tree, the third book chapter picture of Padfoot pulling Ron under the tree for the second, and for the third version I used a screenshot from the first level of the second game. These first three versions weren’t very good at all, so I changed them quite a bit as my skills improved even after they were no longer open and have since deleted them.
Versions Four through Seven
When I had moved on to version four on April 21st, I had not planned on making it in honor of Gryffindor house, but that’s what I ended up doing. A visitor posted that the style, which featured red, maroon, and gold colors, reminded her of the Gryffindor common room, so the name “Gyrffindor!” just stuck with it. Since I had made a layout for Gryffindor, I had to make one for the other houses, just to be fair. Two months later, with the release of the fifth book on June 21st, I released my fifth version, “Ravenclaw!”, which featured varieties of blue with silver, and images from the cover of the fifth book in the banner. Each of these four layouts, which were getting better and better as I learned more about making them, lasted two months for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to be fair to each house by keeping these versions open the same amount of time. Second, I was starting to think that I wanted to close this site for various reasons, and I wanted to release these last four versions before the closing, which was planned for the end of the year. The site’s closing didn’t actually happen at that time, but that’s why these layouts didn’t last very long. The sixth version was in honor of Slytherin house, which had green and silver colors, and “Hufflepuff!” featured yellow borders and text with a black background.
Versions Eight through Ten
The site actually closed for one month during January, but rather than close completely, it actually evolved into two sites, one called Privet Drive, which was in honor of Harry Potter, and another called Bag End, which was in honor of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. I really didn’t like those websites after awhile, and decided I had made a mistake in closing this one. So, I reopened The Whomping Willow again in February, with version eight, which was again maroon and gold with the same layout as Privet Drive had, but with banners and menu images from the first movie gallery. The ninth version was pretty much the same as Bag End, with blue and silver once again, but with images from the second movie also. As you can guess, these three versions were made in honor of the then currently released films, so when the third movie came out on June 4th, the tenth version did also, which was green and silver, with banner and menu images from the third movie. The eigth and ninth versions also lasted for two months, because I wanted to release them in time to open the tenth version parallel with the third movie release. Even so, the tenth version lasted only one month. Why? Because I had had enough of another new version after another new version every two months. I wanted a fresh start, and with this version (number eleven but who’s counting), I believed I achieved it. Almost all of my previous versions have had very dark styles, and although the layouts have been nice, they weren’t very practical. So I thought, why not do something completely different from what I’m used to? That’s how that much lighter version came about, with a layout that was much easier to work with.
Versions Eleven and Twelve
The original version eleven began with two big changes. The first was the launch of The Willow Network, which included The Willow Awards, The Willow Forums, The Willow Topsites, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizarding World, and finally Web Design Center. The second big change was the new domain (www.thewhompingwillow.net) and the new host (Uzipp.com). I was happy with the second big change, but the first one I really didn’t like. The Awards and Topsites had only been open for a few days before I closed them down, but I condensed the Forums and kept them open out of spite. After I decided to close Web Design Center and make it into a new “The Sites” section, I decided that The Willow Network wasn’t meant to be, so I closed it. Because of all these changes, I decided that it was also time to update the layout (after only two months again). Version twelve came about after another month with all new images and new tan colors, but the same general layout. A few days after the launch of the newest version, just after I had started college, the Uzipp server on which my site was hosted was comprimised by something called a rootkit. The rootkit, as I understood, was a program that basically took over the server and caused it to go down, and also blocked anyone from logging in. In short, there was nothing I, or the people at Uzipp, could do about it except replace the server’s hard drive, transfer everyone’s files from the old hard drive to the new one, and reset everyone’s accounts. I think my site was transferred two days later, and my username and password were reset the next day. Everything was fine and well for a few days, but then the server went down yet again. This time the new hard drive was to blame, as it was apparently faulty even before it was installed. After about a week of not knowing what was going on, my username and password were finally restored, but I was also told that the old hard drive was trash, as it would not allow files to be transferred from it. My website itself could not be restored, so I did that part myself.
Versions Thirteen through Fourteen
After being down unintentionally for so long, even though version twelve was barely open a few days, I decided that I needed to give my visitors a reason to come back, which is why I decided to release my favorite version at that time, number thirteen. I started working on it just as I finished putting together twelve, so I had kept this one on the back-burner for quite some time, and I was quite anxious to use it finally. Not long after the forums were finally back up and running, I decided to take them down for the last time, and completely change the theme of the website. I finally sat down and thought about what direction I wanted the site to go, and I decided that I was never meant to have a network site with awards, forums, topsites, and all that. So I shot down any ideas that I had of bringing them back, and the forums went down with them, since that was all I had left of the original network at that time. Once I made up my mind about all of this, I had the opportunity to grow and become more stable. I decided, since I really loved version thirteen, that I would keep it up for as long as I could in order to offset the chaos that the previous versions seemed to portray. Also, because of the new layout, I had so much more room to add new content, which I hadn’t sat down to write in a very long time, and I was ready to start writing once again. So I had room to grow, and grow this site did, or at least it did in my eyes. Finally, after about four months, I decided it was time to move to another version, which actually featured The Whomping Willow from the third movie in its banner, but it kept the same general layout as its predecessor, with links to the major sections in the banner that allowed for more expansion. I stayed with this version fourteen for another five or six months before I decided yet another change was in store…
Hogwarts-Courtyard.com was then born.
|Awards given to TheWhompingWillow.net.|
|May 22nd, 2005||Best Old Site|
|March 8th, 2005||2nd Best Games|
|January 1st, 2005||Most Interactive Three Tie|
|December 10th, 2004||Free AwardMost OriginalMost ComplexMost AdvancedMost User-FriendlyBest InteractiveLovey Loongood’s Choice|
|October 10th, 2004||2nd Best Old Site2nd Tie Best Games2nd Webmaster’s Choice|
|September 6th, 2004||Best Layout|
|September 4th, 2004||3rd Place Best Webmaster Help Site|
|August 8th, 2004||Best GamesWebmaster’s Choice|
|June 20th, 2004||Best Games|
Versions One and Two
When I had realized that my hosting and domain would soon expire after its first year, I made a decision: to make a big change to the website. I decided to switch my hosting, switch my domain, switch this site’s name, in hopes of starting fresh and leaving permanently the once-bumpy road behind. After some time, I opened Hogwarts Courtyard, and it featured one of my best layouts to date. I stayed with it for a good five or six months, which I must say is quite long by my standards. There were several changes from the end of my Whomping Willow days to this version. More emphasis was placed on the network again (Forums, Galleries, Fanworks, FantasyFans, and WizardRealm), more than ever before, but I must admit that the main site content updates were rather neglected. With the next version, I hoped to change that. I hoped that with a more basic layout that I would be able to update content more easily. I decided to delete some network sections again and integrate them into the main website, to make it more efficient to add new content. The FantasyFans and WizardRealm sections were consolidated under two banners, Interactive and Information respectively, on the main site, while the Fanworks section became one page of Discussion. In the place of these network sections that I had removed, I decided I wanted to explore the addition of the Awards, the Chatroom, and the Topsites again also. Most of the rest of the network I kept, and my then co-webmaster began work on the network main page, which brought together all the other network sections to one place. Finally, I breezed through all of my content and made updates where it was necessary, since much of it I hadn’t for the better part of three years. However, these changes didn’t pan out as smoothly as I had hoped. While the content integration made work easier, I again became frustrated with the network sites. The Awards took much longer than they should have, though I appreciated the help I had from the judges with that, the Chatroom never became very popular and was removed, and while the Topsites grew, they had the same problem as the forums: too much spam. The forums had seen its time of glory, and the galleries were only updated occasionally. The newsletter was finished after its tenth edition during this version, in preparation for plans to come.
Versions Three through Five
Version three of this website was my favorite. I had attempted to integrate the former FantasyFans section into the main website, but did not find much success, and so eventually I gave up on it. FantasyFans came back in three separate phases: first I made a separate website dedicated to the Chronicles of Narnia, then one to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and then another to the Myst series. Each layout was like the main one, with separate colors and styles. I loved all of them. Later, when I began to put my ideas for the next version down on paper, each one more extravagant than the last, I realized that I was not nearly talented enough to transfer them from paper to screen. Version four was meant to be temporary, until I had the time to work on ideas I’d drawn, but was here to stay for a while, as time was one precious commodity I did not have. All the other network sections remained the same. After a few months, I created the fifth version, and decided to delete the Lord of the Rings and Myst sections, while I moved the Narnian content to the main website once more. Other than that, not much was changed. Drastic changes came later, with the advent of FictionRow.com. More information about this current website can be found on the “About FictionRow” page above this one. Thanks!
|Awards given to Hogwarts-Courtyard.com.|
|Awards Site||Date Released||Awards Won|
|August 20th, 2007||Most Valuable Team|
|April 30th, 2006||Best Intermediate SiteBest ContentBest GamesBest NewsBest UpdatedBest WebmasterBest Webmaster Help
Visitors Choice Award
Golden Wizard Award
|December 4th, 2005||Best Intermediate SiteBest WebmasterMost UniqueDervish Award|
|October 17th, 2005||Best Beginner SiteBest ForumBest LayoutBest Webmaster|