The original Myspace was like the wild west of social networking. There were few rules when it came to managing your profile design and the site had a pioneering spirit, allowing users to post anything they wanted. Myspace was a great tool to stay in touch with friends but it also became a training ground for me to learn the basics of front end design and coding.
I was a teenager with limited knowledge of front end design when a friend invited me to join Myspace. I spent weekends and school holidays making Flash cartoons like my heroes on Newgrounds but I had no idea how websites were made.
One day after school, the same friend who invited me to Myspace showed me how to hack your profile by injecting custom styling and content into the fields used to describe yourself. The developers of Myspace could’ve easily blocked any custom HTML and CSS but allowing this level of customisation made the site hugely popular and exposed kids like me to the online design world.
After learning how to hack profiles, I regularly redesigned my page layout using snippets of code I borrowed from other sites. This experimentation helped me understand basic web typography and colours, asset hosting and linking.
Envious friends started asking me to help design their layouts. It wasn’t long until I was getting paid offers to design full custom layouts, usually from rock bands wanting to improve their online presence. I was making a little money from my hobby and I enjoyed immersing myself in web design.
The process of redesigning Myspace layouts exposed me to similar design procedures I still use today. I created a fake account as a base before applying the finished layout to the live profile, which is similar to developing locally. I checked how layouts looked on different school computers, laptops and my PC, which is browser and device testing. And I backed up layout code as separate text files, which is like version control.
If it wasn’t for the malleability of Myspace profiles, I wouldn’t have learnt the basics of web design, which helped me land my first job as a junior designer. Although Myspace is largely ignored these days (despite the amazing redesign by Josephmark), I have fond memories staying up way too late on school nights under the glow of a CRT monitor learning a skill I didn’t realise could become a career.