The partwork At Home with Your PC was conceived in 1997 to fill a perceived gap in the market. Partwork publishing giant IMP and Editorial agency Planet Three Network teamed up to produce a publication, distributed by mail order, that would teach novice computer users how to get the best out of their new PCs.
The project was very much Windows 95 oriented, the argument being that more people had Wintel computers and anyway, Macs don't need an instruction book.
I joined the project as an Assistant Editor just before Christmas 1997, and worked on the test version of the publication that would be sent out a selected group of IMP customers to gauge their reaction to the new project and, if necessary, allow for fine-tuning before the partwork was published for real.
We all worked feverishly until May 1998 and the test run was released to an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
The editorial staff were about to be laid off until September, when the real project would begin. My response was to suggest that what the publication needed was a web site. The directors agreed and put me to work developing an online support site.
So, with the help of two of the art editors on the project, Dawn Li and Paul Southcombe, I began to plan a site that would catalogue the subjects covered by the AHWYPC packs, offer further hints and tips and create an on-line community of AHWYPC readers.
I wrote all the text for the site and based
the look of the site on the designs Dawn had created for the CD-ROM that accompanied each pack of AHWYPC loose-leaf cards.
Each fortnight we added a chunk of new material to the site and the content began to grow. Bear in mind all this was done as flat HTML, so maintenance was a laborious task.
But we must've been doing something right, because after the site launched at the beginning of 1999, we included voting forms for the 1999 British Telecom "Yell!"
Awards, and the readers of AHWYPC voted for their site, making us the winner in the Reader's Choice category. Pretty good for a relative beginner.
I think the directors of Planet Three were pretty pleased with the outcome as I was promoted to Head of New Media and we embarked on a series of similar websites, designed to support Planet Three's other print publications.