In 1999, I was working for a Company in Stratford, Ontario called Dura Automotive Inc. I became very involved in the Union activities there and found it to be a very rewarding aspect of my employment. In the Spring of 2001, my President asked me to attend a week long training session on how to write and publish a newsletter for our Local. I was more then happy to do so and found it interesting.
In the fall of 2001, after a few months of newsletter writing, I decided I needed formal education on computers. I have been using them for years but I never really learned ‘all the beneficial features’ of them. My life was crazy busy at that time but I knew it was something I needed to do. I enrolled in a online college course focusing on Computer Repairs and Network Administration. I graduated in the September 2005 with a course average of 89%.
My interest in computers was at an all-time high from the Newsletter Course and the College Course I was currently taking. So when in the Summer of 2002, the Union Training Facility in Upper Marlboro, Maryland (William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Centre) – was offering a class on website development. I applied to take the training and I was able to attend the class with my wife who at the time was the Stratford Youth Centre Coordinator. After the class was over, I was hooked and knew this was the direction our Local needed to take to go along with our Newsletters.
After much debate and conversation, my Local Union Executive gave me the green light to build the site. So after a lot of experimenting with different layouts and trying different things to engage our members, I found my passion for website building. Our Local seen the huge benefits that websites had in reaching out to all of our members and the general public. In fact, my Local Executive allowed me, with the help of our National Union and my wife, to put on website training courses at the Stratford Youth Centre to show kids just how to build their own sites using Microsoft Frontpage 2003. This would continue on with the Union and Youth Centre until Dura closed in 2007.
In September 2003, I joined the Fraternal Order of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. I was only a member for a few weeks when the Grand Lodge of Ontario heard I like to play around with website building and approached me about re-building their site for Ontario. I accepted the challenge and got to work. The site started off as 1 page. In the next 3 months, as members started requesting items be put on the website, it grew to around 10 pages with requests continually coming in once our members heard we had a website. In mid 2017, our site had grown to around 30 pages and had a separate Password Protected Members Area. We tried many different things over the years, but the one thing that has remained the same is the simplicity of the site.
In January 2018, our Website provider contacted us and informed us that they were upgrading all their hardware and we would no longer be able to use FrontPage to design our websites. They informed us to move to WordPress as the replacement software to use. With our Annual Meeting happening the first week in May, I had 3 short months to learn the new software and rebuild 15 years worth of work in that time frame. After a lot of late nights and researching this new software, I rediscovered my passion for website building and our new site has rapidly grown to over 75 pages.
Our membership has seen and felt the benefits of the website and having an online presence. At the Annual General Meeting in May 2018, they asked for more, a lot more. Some members felt that each lodge should have its own website and email specially built for them to use. I couldn’t have agreed more, since this was something I have been trying for since around 2010. I got to work immediately and in September 2018, I was able to launch an entire network of Independent Order of Odd Fellows websites and emails. I was able to build around 107 websites (78 Lodges, 20 Districts and 9 miscellaneous sites that were needed) and have over 210 different emails for people across Ontario. I am now in the process of teaching members from all over Ontario how to use this new software and maintain and grow their lodge websites to show the public what they are all about and get new members to join them. In October, only 60 short days since the new sites launched, they have had new members join from across the province.
In late October 2018, a very good friend of mine came to me with a need for a website for his new business and asked if I could find time to help him. We sat down and talked about what he wanted and got to work on building his new website. He mentioned that I should be doing this for other people to help them get their businesses started also. That is when I sat down with my wife and we decided that ‘Barry Smith Web Designs’ should be established right away so I could start helping other people bring their ideas to a web-based platform and have their computers repaired at a fraction of the cost compared to some ‘Big Box Stores’.
The main focus on my services is to provide great websites and computer related services at very affordable rates. I could build a very flashy website with all the bells and whistles, but that doesn’t always translate to improved traffic or sales for your business.
That is why I have found that Simplicity works 99% of the time and that is where I focus on. That is why I adopted the slogan “THERE IS BEAUTY IN SIMPLICITY”. I have found that people come to your site for information about your service or product and not to see flashy icons and crazy colours. I stand behind what I do and I would be excited to have you and your company stand beside me while I do it.