In early 2001, Jim was looking for some way to jumpstart Container’s sales. Revenue had fallen from its high point of $4 million in 1999, due to fears of worldwide computer failures when the year flipped from 1999 to 2000 (seems ridiculous today). Sales for 2000 had fallen back to 1996-1998 levels of the mid 3 millions. Something needed to change, and it seemed like the internet might be the wave of the future. That said, none of the big players in the packaging industry had websites, and they were doing just fine. For Jim, this was going to be just one more in long line of experiments.
Jim called his son Jeff, who was at college studying international economics. “Container & Packaging needs a website. Do you think you can build one for us?” With no prior experience, and no clear idea what it took to make a website, Jeff took on the project. He found someone in his apartment complex taking an Intro to Website Design class and started asking questions. An hour later, Jeff left to buy some software and started teaching himself HTML. A few weeks later, Jim bought a new domain name, containerandpackaging.com, and had his first website. The nice thing about firsts is you don’t really have anything to compare it against. Unfortunately, no comparisons were necessary to realize that this first site was ugly…as in jaw-dropping ugly!
And yet, Jim published the website. Objective met.
Nothing happened. No calls. No visitors. Crickets.
Considering how ugly that first site was, the lack of visitors was a real blessing.
After graduating, Jeff began working fulltime at Container in the summer of 2001. His primary focus was on improving the print shop profitability, but on the side, he worked on improving the website.
The site was not very easy to maintain. Because it was all HTML, someone had to create a new web page for every single item. Being averse to inefficient processes, Jeff assumed there had to be a better way. Since 95% of each item page was an exact copy of every other item page, it seemed like there should be a way to have one page that changes slightly based on new item information. After some research, Jeff learned about databases, and web languages that would change a page based on data from the database. Jeff found a mentor, and after working with them for a few months, redesigned the website to make it dynamic, meaning that one page of code could look different based on information sent to the page from the data. This is the first version for which we have pictures, and visually, it was a big upgrade from the first site…yeah, kind of gives you an idea how bad the first site was.