The History & Evolution of Websketching

It is with my deepest regrets that I am writing to announce the recent passing of my father and business partner, Lawrence Warwick. As you may know, he was very dedicated to his clients and was comforted in the knowledge that I was willing to step back into my role at Websketching and continue providing services to them.

While I think about what comes next, I am writing this post as a tribute to him and to document the history and evolution of Websketching, which closely follows the evolution of web development.

Lawrence E. Warwick
1948 – 2022

Websketching: The Early Years (1999 – 2006)

I founded Websketching back in 1999 while I was attending college, hand-coding HTML websites before design software was even a thing. It was a very exciting time for me as I delved deeply into the new world wide web and drank in the infinite possibilities that I knew existed. I owned six-letter .com domain names and I became one of the first SEO “experts,” attracting clients around the world as businesses sought ways to improve their rank.

Once I graduated college, I spent a few years working as a web programmer for RealTime Media, developing online sweepstakes and instant win games for clients including Maybelline, MasterCard, Old Navy, Kodak, and The Philadelphia Eagles.

In 2004, I joined Comcast Spectacor and was responsible for new development for the Philadelphia Flyers, Phantoms, Comcast Spectacor, and various arena websites.

These jobs allowed me to raise my family while I quenched my thirst for Web 2.0 knowledge.

I worked on Websketching when I could, mostly nights and weekends, and developed a proprietary content management system (CMS) so my clients could keep their websites updated themselves. Honestly, though, it was the technology and development that I craved rather than running the business side of things. I rarely even invoiced anyone, so I knew that in order to take things to the next level, I needed a business partner.

Websketching, LLC: Open for Business! (2007)

In 2007, I approached my Dad and pitched the idea of going into business together. He was “all in” and so we each left our jobs to focus on Websketching full-time.

Dad brought an artistic background, an eye for color and photography, sales and marketing experience, and practical business knowledge to the table. This allowed me to focus on the technology side of our business.

It was a very exciting time for both of us and Websketching quickly grew by word of mouth due to our creative designs, cutting-edge technology, and dedication to our customers. In fact, one of our earliest and proudest moments as business partners came in 2009 when Websketching was awarded the inaugural 2007 FANATI award by Rackspace for earning a near-perfect customer satisfaction score from our customers.

Websketching was the very first FANATI award winner!

We were flown to the Rackspace HQ in San Antonio, TX, to receive the award and we felt like we were on top of the world!

“As a company whose mission is to become one of the world’s greatest service companies and which is a two-time winner of the American Business Awards’ Best Customer Service Organization, we believe we are experts on customer service. Through the nomination process, we saw many of our own customers that take a similar approach to customer service and we’re glad to be able to recognize the one that stood out the most.”

Graham Weston, Chairman & Co-Founder of Rackspace

Winning that award changed the game for us. It changed the way we thought about what we were doing and helped us envision the future of our company. And, it was definitely bright! We started brainstorming new ideas as soon as Rackspace dropped us off at the airport … and when we landed in Philly, we hit the ground running.

Websketching, LLC: The Mobile Era (2008 – 2010)

Over the next few years, we faced many challenges due to quickly changing technologies during “the mobile era.” We were a pioneer in mobile development and responsive website design, emerging as a leading business in our industry and area.

In 2009, Websketching was selected by a panel of independent judges as one of the 2009 NJBIZ Business of the Year finalists in the Emerging Business of the Year category. The award, presented by Amper, Politziner & Mattia, recognizes the state’s most dynamic businesses and business leaders who share a commitment to professional excellence, business growth, and the community.

2009 Finalist – Emerging Business of the Year Award

While Dad was working on breaking into new regions and expanding our client base from Catskills, NY, down to Chincoteague, VA, I became deeply involved in the business community in my local town and county.

We both became immersed in building communities online, launching several online magazines, directories, and tourism websites. We donated our time and expertise to provide our towns, community events, local non-profits, and churches with free websites. We went to their events and created videos to showcase our towns and our clients. And, we held several fun fundraising events for local charities.

Our efforts paid off and “Websites Powered by Websketching” began dominating South Jersey. From 2008–2012, Websketching was voted “Best of Salem County” for “Best Website Designer/Webmaster” each and every year.

These were definitely “the good years” and I remember them fondly now as I reflect on them.

Websketching, LLC: Social Media Becomes Social Business (2011/2012)

While social media had been around for a few years, it wasn’t until around 2011 that smaller businesses really started to take notice. Websketching began holding free seminars to teach our clients how to use Facebook and other platforms and we added social media services to our offerings.

We began a new growth face, expanding by word of mouth more than ever before. There was a buzz in our towns, and the buzz was Websketching. We were turning our small towns into connected, online communities.

Unfortunately, we were also starting to burn out. We had grown so fast that the workload was becoming overwhelming. We tried to hire, but things were moving so fast and we just didn’t have the foundation we needed to grow a company. In hindsight, I see that we should have put on the brakes on sales much sooner to focus on building a team to support the sales.

We were also starting to have differences in opinion on the direction to take the company. One of the sad truths about 50/50 partnerships is that you can end up in a stalemate. This power struggle also had the added layer of the father/daughter connection, and neither one of us was willing to lose to the other on that one.

Websketching, LLC: Joining the WordPress Revolution (2013/2014)

In 2010 or 2011, we started getting larger and larger clients and we began taking notice of other content management systems, many of which these larger clients insisted upon using. We dabbled in WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, and Silverstripe. In 2013, when WordPress became the dominant CMS, we decided to begin making the transition to WordPress. This was difficult as our proprietary CMS was built on a Windows server, while WordPress runs best on a Linux server.

Unfortunately, we had problems, a lot of problems. We were trying to run two operating systems on one machine and things did not go well.

The server crashed. Majorly. For days.

We worked as hard as we could to save our ship from sinking, but it sank fast.

And, we lost a lot of clients.

We were able to get things up and running again, but things were not the same. We had not prepared for a catastrophic event and we did not know how to recover from it.

And, then, my father and I had a final falling out, and I left Websketching.

Websketching, LLC: The Lost Years (2015 – 2020)

My Dad continued with Websketching after I left and he was able to successfully transition the clients we had left to WordPress.

I know those years were hard on him. He had a huge learning curve ahead of him, but he persevered and slowly grew a customer base in his local area.

I went my own way, working as an independent contractor for several agencies, providing social media services to their clients.

Sadly, my Dad and I did not see each other much during these years. Honestly, it was too difficult for me to see him because I loved Websketching so much and it hurt to even think about what was lost. I guess I blamed him, too, although I know now that it was at least equally my fault, if not more so.

Websketching, LLC: The Final Year (2021/2022)

In 2021, my Dad was in and out of the hospital. He was 73 years old and ready to retire, so he began shutting down the business and transitioning his clients to other providers.

In December of 2021, he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that was already in the final stages.

I didn’t even know he was sick.

In early February, Shelly, my Dad’s wife, called and let us know that he was coming home under hospice care. He was told he had six weeks left to live.

I went to see him two days later. As soon as I saw him, the lost years disappeared and all hurt and angry feelings were washed away.

We did not talk about Websketching that day. We were not business partners or former business partners. We were a father and a daughter. And, despite the circumstances, it was a good day.

A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, I called him to see how he was doing. He asked me if I would take care of his remaining clients after he died. I said I would; he sounded relieved.

He died that evening.

Websketching Websites: The Rebirth (2022)

I have had a few weeks to reflect and I deeply regret the falling out that we had and the lost years that could have been spent together as a family.

When I reached out to Dad’s clients, some of whom he had brought to Websketching back in 2007, it became clear that he had continued to provide outstanding service even as his health declined.

And, that is why I have decided that I want to relaunch Websketching. I am not sure exactly what it will look like right now, but I am sure that it will evolve into something new and exciting as we enter the future of the internet.

I believe there must be a reason that my Dad and I needed to take separate paths for a while in this life journey, and there is also a reason that our paths joined again at the end of his. The end of his journey is now the beginning of mine.

I feel closer to my Dad just thinking about working on Websketching again and I am finding myself, once again, becoming excited by the possibilities that exist with the reinvention of the web as we enter a new era … Web3

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