Dlayer: How it came to be

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As of August 2015, Dlayer is now an Open Source project, the text below is from the original "History of Dlayer" page on Dlayer.com.

The idea When was the lightbulb moment?

Thinking back I believe the initial idea for Dlayer solidified in early 2008; it is hard to recall the exact date that I settled on the final idea, but I'm confident that I had been thinking about the concept for a few years before 2008.

Recently I have spent a lot of time thinking about why it took so long for the idea to cement. After reflection, I now know that I wasn't sure of my abilities before 2008, before then I either worked by myself or as part of small teams where I was typically the senior member. I started working with larger and more skilled teams from 2008 and became very conscious I had artificially limited some of my early development projects because I incorrectly thought I lacked the skills to develop them.

The Dlayer that never was Wistful thinking!

There was very nearly a vaguely similar product to Dlayer in 2008, as in I almost started working on a product with two other colleagues from work. At the time I was Head of Development for a small web development company in Newbury, UK, I would have been working on the product with one of the Product Managers, let's call him Foo and the Lead Designer, let's call him Bar.

During a carpool drive home with Bar we pondered working on a project together, the plan was that he would do all the creative work and I would do all the development work; Foo was going to handle all the commercial and marketing.

Before we continue the story I feel I need to state that the proposed product was not Dlayer; it would never have been able to become Dlayer, it was a very simple template driven app. Bar was going to create thousands of small image and HTML assets, and I was going to develop a system that would allow users to join them all together to create whatever they wanted.

On the surface it could be argued that this product and Dlayer are similar, the reality is they couldn't be any more different, In my opinion, it would be analogous to claiming that a unicycle and Mercedes SLK are the same, oh my god, he just made a car analogy. The two products differed both conceptually and architecturally, in addition to that, Dlayer exists on the web; this imagined other product never even got to the planning stage.

Why am I mentioning the other potential product here? Three reasons, firstly, full disclosure, I've no reason to hide anything, secondly, I know there is no link between the two products and there never was. Lastly, this all happened around the time I started working on Dlayer, 2008.

So, to summarise a dull and long story, nothing happened, neither Foo or Bar was willing to commit to the product, even partially, it was all just a wistful dream.

Delayed start Procrastination?

Between 2008 and early 2010 there was little real development on what would later become the product you are reading about here. During the time frame, I wrote thousands of lines of code, but it was either sample programs for feature or documentation. I also create hundreds of diagrams detailing how I intended the app to work, given all that, limited real code.

There is a multitude of reasons for the lack of development, two of the primary reasons being that I met my wife to be and I moved over to contracting rather than full-time development roles, time just managed to get away from me.

Development begins Finally!

In early 2010 it dawned on me not only how long I had been sitting on the concept but how much product I didn't have to show for two years of work. I spent the next few months collating all my documentation and started planning the development of Dlayer. I began in September; I had finally started working on the first real version of the product that would later become the app hosted at Dlayer.com.

During the next 21 months, I created two separate versions of Dlayer, both stalled at the same point; I kept stumbling with how I wanted to handle the relationship between a content page and a content page template.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, I had gotten far too close to the project, it took a meeting with my best friend, Dan, to realise that. Dan reviewed the latest version of the app, and after a lengthy postmortem I realised my error, Dlayer was far too complicated. I had strayed from my original concept and primary goal, a user, shouldn't need to understand web design or web development, Dlayer at that point, was a tool only usable by web developers.

I gave myself a kick in the arse and a punch in the face and when back to my original notes, I started planning for the final and third version of Dlayer, third times a charm?

I started the development of this version of Dlayer on the 1st May 2012; the current specification refers to this version of the app, and it very much mirrors the original concept I started outlining in 2008.