Project: PartyOn

PartyOn was an online event calendar which I started coding back in 2004. I built it using PHP 4, a MySQL relational database, HTML and CSS. The project was an excellent opportunity to teach myself how to use these technologies.

It started off with the idea of creating an online calendar for the DJ Team I was part of in those days. We wanted to advertise the parties and events we would play at. I soon realized there was an opportunity for a site which actually allowed everyone to post and advertise their events on.

The major competitive advantage of PartyOn was that visitors could add events without having to create an account. The site relied on e-mail address account verification to identify people posting events. If someone wanted to add an event all she had to do was add her e-mail address and click a link within the confirmation e-mail.

Event meta-data, organizers, locations and other properties were collected freely to organize a calendar in a searchable database of events in Flanders, Belgium. Event posters could also upload the event posters, which were prominently featured on the site.

All content was available through RSS - feeds which visitors could construct themselves using key properties.

Before there were actual mobile browsers with the current wireless Internet, there was NTT DoCoMo’s “I-mode”, a slow mobile Internet which required a subset of HTML code and very limited file-sizes for the pages or “cards” as you were supposed to call them, plus it worked only on a handful of devices. Even with these restrictions I managed to create a simple mobile version of PartyOn back then. It was a major goal of mine to make access to the site as easy as possible.

Other goals included linking party & event suppliers, like rental companies and event locations owners, to advertise their goods on the site. Another section of the site was reserved for sharing tips on how to successfully organize events. I realized most events in Flanders are organized by local youth clubs who want to gather some extra means to maintain their activities, who often needed advice and help.

The site was hosted on a shared server space over at Antagonist.nl, cheap and reliable website hosting with excellent support. Because of the shared status of the server, I made sure the pages loaded fast by creating static HTML files for most of the pages so the server load was kept to a minimum. At its most popular moment the site was regularly visited by about 60.000 Flemish visitors a month.

By adding Google Adsense I was able to afford keeping the site running with targeted advertisement, but I never made any real money from it if you count all the man-hours making it :smile:

In 2008 it was time for new projects, so I handed over the domain name and database to a Flemish marketing company. The site still exists and is continously being populated with new events. You can visit it at www.partyon.be

What I learned

  • Coding a PHP website from scratch and setting up a normalized relational database. I followed tutorials and various books from SitePoint amongst others, including the PHP Cookbook to learn PHP.
  • Managing the Search Engine Optimization through Google Analytics and using Google Adwords and Google Custom Search.
  • Semantic HTML and XHTML (HTML5 did not exist yet then).
  • CSS: 2.1 in those days.
  • Some JavaScript (form validation, banner rotation, etc)
  • Online marketing: adSense, adWords, banner networks.
  • Dealing with site security and coding a performant website: file uploads, e-mail authentication.