Building tools for our own use
The original idea for the original Headway layout editor came about because of the need for an internal tool to quickly set the layout for sites we were building for our clients.
Clay was building the sites and wanted a way to quickly lay them out. He decided in late 2008, early 2009 to build a tool he could use in-house. What he was calling it was something like a sandbox. I am sure he will correct me if I have this one all wrong.
Keeping in mind he was not using tables to build sites mind you. But, the idea for the original layout editor and the Leaf system came about because of how we were looking at the building of sites.
If you think about it from a non-coder point of view. And this was how I had to do it. It was easier for me to look at things as laying out a “jig” table. And if you don’t know what a jig table is. It is what welders use to hold metal in place while they weld it. But, someone has to design that jig table based on a design before the welders could use it. And this was the easiest way for me to explain and understand what Clay was working on as he built this internal tool.
While I was still out there selling custom sites and doing consulting and coaching, unknown to me, Clay was also busy working on this tool he wanted for building sites. He wanted a way to do things quicker and easier. I really didn’t see his idea until he showed it to me roughly in the middle of the process of building it.
I was blown away!
I told him I wanted to show this to a couple of people I knew who also built sites for clients. One in particular was Michael Martine of Remarkablogger fame. Michael and I had come to know each other on twitter.
Needless to say, Michael and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Lets just say, I am a lot further Right than he is. However, meeting Michael and getting to know him the way I did illustrates the power of social media at the time. We started to get to know each other in 2008. What became of this was not only a friendship, but a business relationship too.
Michael and I started to work on a blogging product together we later called Blawging Lawyers. It was a good product which did OK. And it was a good learning experience for both of us on the how-to’s of building and marketing a membership type site. And of course, Clay built the site for us too. Michael and I did the content and weekly recorded chats we made available to the members. And Michael handled the down and dirty SEO for the site and the course.
Since I knew Michael and the fact I valued his opinion and input, I showed him the original layout editor Clay had built. I also showed it to a couple of others. And the general response received was the same. ”This is something you need to finish.” Another one was, “What you have here needs to be built out as a product or a WordPress plugin which you could sell to others.” And the one which really got my attention. ”This is too good of an idea to not finish and share with others.”
I told Clay about this and his only response to me was, “I can do that.”
What you need to keep in mind is the fact this was in April of 2009. Clay was 16 and still in high school and I was just a bit reluctant to say the least. But, this was a kid who was basically working a full time job. He was getting straight A’s in high school. Playing in the marching band as a drummer. And doing other extra curricular activities.
Clay was already doing way more than anyone his own age. Hell, he was doing more than the majority of the adult population of our small community.
So, I basically turned him loose to do what he told me he could and wanted to do. Like I was going to be able to stop him anyway.
April 26th, 2009 is a date I will never forget
That date is forever carved into my memory. This is the date Clay wrote the first line of code for what we now call Headway Themes.
More to come too. Next time I will let you know how we came up with the name for Headway Themes and some more good stuff as we took this idea and ran with it.